Preity ZintaActress, producer, entrepreneur
Preity G Zinta (pronounced ; born 31 January 1975) is an Indian film actress and entrepreneur. After graduating with degrees in English honours and criminal psychology, Zinta made her acting debut in Dil Se.. in 1998, followed by a role in Soldier in the same year. These performances earned her the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut, and she was later recognised for her role as a teenage single mother in Kya Kehna (2000). She subsequently established a career with a variety of character types; her film roles along with her screen persona have been credited with contributing to a change in the concept of a Hindi film heroine, and won her several accolades.
Zinta received the Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 2003 for her performance in the drama Kal Ho Naa Ho. She went on to play leading roles in two consecutive annual top-grossing films in India, the science fiction film Koi… Mil Gaya (2003) and the romantic drama Veer-Zaara (2004). She was later noted for her portrayal of independent, modern Indian women in Salaam Namaste (2005) and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), top-grossing productions in overseas markets. These accomplishments established her as a leading actress of Hindi cinema. Her first international film role was in the Canadian film Heaven on Earth (2008), for which she was awarded the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress and was nominated for the Genie Award for Best Actress. She followed this with a hiatus from acting work for several years, with the exception of her self-produced comeback film, Ishkq in Paris (2013), which failed to leave a mark.
In addition to acting, Zinta has written a series of columns for BBC News Online South Asia; she is a social activist, a television presenter, and a regular stage performer. She is the founder of the production company PZNZ Media, a co-owner of the Indian Premier League cricket team Kings XI Punjab since 2008, and the owner of the South-African T20 Global League cricket team Stellenbosch Kings since 2017. Zinta is known in the Indian media for publicly speaking her mind, and consequently has sparked the occasional controversy. These controversies include her being the sole witness not to retract in court her earlier statements against the Indian mafia during the 2003 Bharat Shah case, for which she was awarded the Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Award.
Early life and background
Zinta was born on 31 January 1975 into a Rajput family from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Her father, Durganand Zinta, was an officer in the Indian Army. He died in a car accident when she was 13 years old; the accident also involved her mother, Nilprabha, who was severely injured and consequently remained bedridden for two years. Zinta called the tragic accident and her father’s death a significant turning point in her life, which forced her to mature rapidly. She has two brothers; Deepankar and Manish, a year older and a year younger, respectively. Deepankar is a commissioned officer in the Indian Army, while Manish lives in California.
Zinta, who describes herself as having been a tomboy as a child, has emphasised her father’s military background as having given her a lasting impression on how family life was to be conducted. He asserted the importance of discipline and punctuality to the children. She studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary boarding school in Shimla. Although she confesses to loneliness in the boarding school, she noted that it was compensated by her finding a “… perfect set of friends” there. As a student, she developed a love for literature, particularly the works of William Shakespeare and poetry. According to Zinta, she enjoyed schoolwork and received good grades; in her free time she played sports, especially basketball.
Upon graduating from the boarding school in Sanawar (The Lawrence School) at age 18, Zinta enrolled at St. Bede’s College in Shimla. She graduated from college with an English honours degree, and then started a graduate programme in psychology. She earned a postgraduate degree in criminal psychology, but later took up modelling. Zinta’s first television commercial was for Perk chocolates, the result of a chance meeting with a director at a friend’s birthday party in 1996. The director persuaded Zinta to audition for the spot, and she was selected. Afterwards, she appeared in other catalogues and commercials, including one for the soap Liril.
Debut and early roles (1998–1999)
In 1997, Zinta met Shekhar Kapur when she accompanied a friend to an audition, and was asked if she would audition too. Upon seeing her audition, Kapur insisted that she become an actress. She was originally scheduled to make her screen debut in Kapur’s Tara Rum Pum Pum opposite Hrithik Roshan, but the filming was cancelled. Kapur later recommended her for director Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se… Zinta often recalls that when she joined the film industry, her friends teased her that she would typically “wear white saris and dance in the rain”, thereby motivating her to play different parts.
Zinta commenced shooting for Kundan Shah’s Kya Kehna, whose release was delayed until 2000. The delay of another film, Soldier, meant that her first release was Dil Se.. (1998) opposite Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala. She was introduced as Preeti Nair, a middle-class Delhi girl and Khan’s fiancée. The film was considered an unusual launch for a newcomer, as her role called for only 20 minutes of screen time. However, she was eventually noticed for her role, particularly for the forthright character she played. Her scene with Khan, in which she asked him, “Are you a virgin?”, became well-known, and her portrayal earned her a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Khalid Mohamed of Bombay Talkies said that she “radiates confidence and spunk even if she’s given just scraps of footage”. She played her first leading role in the action-drama Soldier (1998), a commercial hit of the year. She won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut for her performance in both Dil Se.. and Soldier.
Zinta next acted in two Telugu films, Premante Idera (1998), opposite Venkatesh; and Raja Kumarudu (1999), opposite Mahesh Babu. She followed with the leading role alongside Akshay Kumar in Sangharsh, a thriller directed by Tanuja Chandra and written by Mahesh Bhatt. Zinta portrayed the character of Reet Oberoi, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer who falls in love with a captured killer played by Kumar. Having been impressed with Zinta’s work in Dil Se.., Chandra approached her for the part after several leading actresses had refused the offer, which Zinta viewed as an opportunity to expand her range. Sangharsh was not a box office success, although Zinta’s performance received favourable comments by critics. An article published by The Tribune upon the film’s release described her performance as “an amazing act” in an “intense film”, documenting her career path thus far with the observation, “She wowed the audiences with her cameo in Dil Se, then she zapped the viewers with her sensuality in Soldier and now Preity Zinta is all set to shock everybody with her stark performance .”
Breakthrough and career advancement (2000–2002)
Zinta’s first role in 2000 was in the drama Kya Kehna, which unexpectedly became a major box office success. The film addressed themes of single parenthood and teenage pregnancy, and gained Zinta wider recognition from the public as well as film critics. Her portrayal of Priya Bakshi, a teenage single mother who fights social prejudice, earned her several award nominations, including her first nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare Awards. Anupama Chopra from India Today reported that Zinta belonged to a new breed of Hindi film actors that breaks away from character stereotypes. Further positive feedback came her way that year for her starring role in the romantic comedy Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega. She next appeared alongside Sanjay Dutt and Hrithik Roshan in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s drama Mission Kashmir (2000). Set in the valley of Kashmir during the Indo-Pakistani conflicts, the film dealt with the topic of terrorism and crime; it was an economic success, becoming the year’s third-highest-grossing release in India. Zinta’s role was that of Sufiya Parvez, a TV reporter and Roshan’s childhood love. A review in The Hindu noted her for lending “colour to the otherwise serious proceedings”, and she shared similar sentiments about the character, citing its positive nature within the dark film as having motivated her interest in the part.
Abbas-Mustan’s family drama Chori Chori Chupke Chupke was released in 2001 after a one-year delay due to the trial of producer Bharat Shah and opened to a wide audience. One of the first Hindi films to address the controversial issue of surrogate childbirth, it starred Zinta as Madhubala, a golden-hearted prostitute hired as a surrogate mother. Initially reluctant to play the part, she eventually accepted it at the directors’ persuasion and, to prepare for it, visited several bars and nightclubs at Mumbai’s red-light areas to study the lingo and mannerisms of sex-workers. Reviews of the film were varied, but critics singled out Zinta for praise. She received a second Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare Awards for her performance, of which reviewer Sukanya Verma wrote: “Preity Zinta, who clearly has the meatiest part of all, makes the best of it. Her transformation from the cocky and unabashed prostitute to a sensitive and warm person is amazingly believable.”
Two more 2001 releases featured Zinta, including Farhan Akhtar’s coming-of-age drama Dil Chahta Hai. Depicting the contemporary routine life of Indian affluent youth, it is set in modern-day urban Mumbai and focuses on a major period of transition in the lives of three young friends (Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna). Zinta starred as Aamir Khan’s love interest, Shalini, who is conflicted about her upcoming marriage to a man she does not love. Dil Chahta Hai was popular with critics, some of whom believed it broke new ground by introducing a realistic portrayal of Indian youth. It was named the Best Feature Film in Hindi at the National Film Awards and received the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Film. The film was a moderate box office success in India; it performed well in the big cities but failed in the rural areas, which was attributed by trade analysts to the city-oriented lifestyle it presented. Sita Menon wrote of Zinta that she “is beautiful and vibrant, wavering between endearingly naive and confused”.
In 2002, Zinta collaborated once again with director Kundan Shah, as the protagonist in the family drama Dil Hai Tumhaara, alongside Rekha, Mahima Chaudhry and Arjun Rampal. She played Shalu, an adopted daughter craving love, a role she identified with due to its rebellious nature. Billed as a star vehicle for Zinta, Dil Hai Tumhaara did not succeed financially, but her portrayal was uniformly acclaimed by critics, with those critical of the film marking her presence as its main highlight. Taran Adarsh from Bollywood Hungama noted: “… Preity Zinta, in an author-backed role … steals the show with a sterling performance. Her scenes with Rekha (second half) and Alok Nath (pre-climax) are simply outstanding. Here’s a performance that is sure to win accolades from the junta and critics whole-heartedly.”
Zinta was the lead in India’s three highest-grossing films of 2003: The Hero: Love Story of a Spy, Koi… Mil Gaya and Kal Ho Naa Ho. The Hero, co-starring Sunny Deol and Priyanka Chopra, is an action drama about a Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) secret agent on a mission to gather intelligence about terrorist activity from across the border of Kashmir. Zinta played the part of Reshma, a Kashmiri villager who falls in love with the agent and becomes part of this network. The film, involving stunts never seen before in the cinematic history of Bollywood, became the most expensive Hindi film ever produced at the time. Despite being the third highest-grossing film of that year, it failed to recover its production costs at the box office. She next starred in Honey Irani’s directorial debut, Armaan, alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor. This drama is set in a hospital and follows the travails of its personnel and its principal, Dr. Akash, who struggles arduously to sustain the institution financially. Zinta played Akash’s schizophrenic wife Sonia Kapoor, a role written specially for her and which she liked because it let her “give vent to all frustrations”. The film received predominantly positive reviews, and Zinta was particularly praised. Khalid Mohamed called her a “peppy scene-stealer, achieving her manic mood swings dexterously”. For her performance, she received nominations for Best Performance in a Negative Role at different award ceremonies, including Filmfare.
Rakesh Roshan’s science-fiction film Koi… Mil Gaya, about a developmentally disabled young man (played by Hrithik Roshan) coming in contact with an alien, followed. Zinta played the role of Nisha, a young woman whom Roshan befriends and later falls in love with. She received another Best Actress nomination at the Filmfare for the role, her portrayal of which was deemed “fresh and inspired” by The Times of India. The film was a financial and critical success and became the most popular film of the year, as well as Zinta’s highest-grossing film, with a domestic total of ₹680 million (US$9.5 million). Empire magazine described it as the “most novel Bollywood movie of the year”. It won the Filmfare Award for Best Movie, among others, and went on to spawn two superhero films as sequels—Krrish and Krrish 3—making it the first of the Krrish film series, to which Zinta did not proceed.
Zinta’s final release of 2003 was Kal Ho Naa Ho, a tear-jerking romantic drama set in New York City. It was directed by Nikhil Advani and written by Karan Johar, co-starring Jaya Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan. The film was received favourably by critics and became India’s second-biggest hit of the year after Koi… Mil Gaya. It also did well internationally and became India’s top-grossing film of the year overseas, earning over ₹750 million (US$11 million) worldwide. Zinta played the role of Naina Catherine Kapur, an insecure and angry young Indian-American woman who falls in love with a man who has a fatal heart disease. She won several awards for her performance, including the Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Writing for Stardust, critic Ram Kamal Mukherjee asserted that the movie rested “wholly and solely” on Zinta’s “astounding performance”, further noting her for having “skillfully handled the hues of the complex character”. Derek Elley of Variety wrote, “Zinta, who’s been carving a growing following the past three years or so, has never been better, definitively moving from juve roles to a charismatic young woman with her sexy, assured Naina.”
In 2004 she starred as TV journalist Romila Dutta in Farhan Akhtar’s war drama Lakshya, alongside Hrithik Roshan. The film was based on the historical events of the 1999 Kargil War; Zinta’s character was modelled after TV journalist Barkha Dutt, the only female reporter who covered the conflict. The film was a critical success, yet her performance received mixed reviews; Namrata Joshi of Outlook likened her to “a teenybopper trying to do a TV newsreading skit for her college fest”, and Rediff.com concluded, “Zinta has quite a good role and a good deal of footage in the film, and she does a fairly decent job of it without ever being spectacular.”
For the lead part in his cross-border romance Veer-Zaara (2004), director Yash Chopra was looking for an actress whose “look and personality could be transformed”. Having identified this opportunity in Zinta, who was mostly known for playing Westernised characters, he cast her in the title role of Zaara Haayat Khan, a feisty Pakistani woman whose love story with Indian officer Veer Pratap Singh (played by Shahrukh Khan) spans three decades amid trials and tribulations. Highly anticipated pre-release, the film had a strong international release, including a screening at the Berlin Film Festival, and was named the Best Movie at major Indian award functions. With revenues of over ₹940 million (US$13 million) worldwide, it was the top-grossing Hindi film of that year both in India and abroad. Zinta’s part required her to master the fine nuances of the Urdu language and resulted in a fourth Filmfare Best Actress nomination, among others. Jitesh Pillai noted her “tremendous restraint”, and Variety hailed her as “the most interesting young actress of her generation,” writing that she “is her usual lively self as the willful Zaara”. Veer-Zaara was Zinta’s second highest-grossing film and third major success in two consecutive years. It marked the beginning of her work with Yash Raj Films, one of the largest production houses in Bollywood.
In 2005, Zinta appeared in two films. Her first release was the folk comedy Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karen, co-starring Govinda, a production that had been delayed since 2002. The film garnered negative reviews and poor box office returns. Zinta’s role was poorly received, with Subhash K. Jha finding her work to be “out of sync” with her own “image and acting style”. She next starred opposite Saif Ali Khan in Siddharth Anand’s comedy-drama Salaam Namaste. Produced by Yash Raj Films, it was the first Indian feature to be filmed entirely in Australia and went on to become the year’s highest-grossing Bollywood production outside of India, earning ₹570 million (US$8.0 million) internationally. The film tells the story of a contemporary cohabiting Indian couple and their subsequent struggle with an unexpected pregnancy. Zinta played the protagonist Ambar Malhotra, a single modern young woman who leaves India to make her own life in Melbourne. Salaam Namaste received mostly positive reviews, and Zinta’s performance earned her nominations for Best Actress at a number of award ceremonies. Taran Adarsh referred to her as “terrific” and argued that she gave “her most accomplished performance to date”. The New York Times noted, “She is cheerleader-homecoming queen-fraternity sweetheart pretty, so even when her characters are being unkind it’s hard not to like her.”
Zinta received further success in 2006, starring in Karan Johar’s romance drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna with an ensemble cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and Kirron Kher. The film became one of the biggest box office hits in India, earning ₹635 million (US$8.9 million), and grossed over ₹496 million (US$7.0 million) abroad, the biggest Bollywood success of all-time in the overseas market up until then. It was her fourth overseas top-earner in four consecutive years. Revolving around two unhappily married couples in New York, the film featured Zinta as Rhea Saran, an ambitious fashion magazine editor whose husband begins an adulterous affair with a family acquaintance. She described the part as an attempt to shed her vivacious public image. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna opened to a polarised critical reception, but The Indian Express approved of Zinta’s effort, noting her for having “walked with poise, sat with grace, smiled with composure and spoken with calmness”. Other reviews questioned the length of her role. In later years, Filmfare lauded the character for “breaking the stereotype” of how married women were mostly seen in Hindi films.
In Shirish Kunder’s romantic musical Jaan-E-Mann, Zinta played Piya, the cynosure of two men in the United States, played by Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. The film opened to mixed reviews from critics and its eventual box office profit was poor. She was mostly criticised for taking a role of minimal importance, though her performance was generally well received. Raja Sen labelled her an “ornament throughout”, but further stated that she “comes vividly alive in the film’s last scene, a moment that makes you lament why filmmakers today don’t let the babyfaced actress have more fun instead of forcing her to sob copiously. She doesn’t have much to do in Jaan-E-Mann, but looks appropriately attractive.” She said the film was a great relief after the more emotionally intense Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, as Jaan-E-Mann was “easy, happy and much more simple”.
Professional expansion (2007–2008)
In 2007, Zinta portrayed a British Pakistani woman, Alvira Khan, in her third project with Yash Raj Films, Shaad Ali’s comedy Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, alongside Abhishek Bachchan, Bobby Deol and Lara Dutta. The film was a critical and commercial failure in India, and several critics panned her performance; The Times of India described her as “too plastic” and Rediff.com concluded, “From accent to emotion, Preity is plain and simple insufferable in this film.”
Following the failure of two of her commercial releases, Zinta decided to venture into art films, a movement of neo-realistic films known in India as parallel cinema. She acted alongside Amitabh Bachchan in her first English-language film, Rituparno Ghosh’s film-within-a-film drama The Last Lear. Zinta played Shabnam, a struggling film actress working on a new project opposite Shakespearean actor Harish Mishra (played by Bachchan) in the midst of a turbulent relationship with her possessive husband. The film premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and was received well. Later reviews in India were approving, with Rajeev Masand writing that she “gets through her scenes competently, never allowing her cute-as-a-button image to take away from the impact she makes here as a conflicted, mature woman”. Sukanya Verma called Zinta “palpably vulnerable” but lamented the English dialogue, finding it distracting “from the seriousness of the situation”. The Last Lear was named the Best English Film at the National Film Awards. Initially dismissive of art films, Zinta eventually spoke of her first venture into the genre, confessing, “I did think with art films that they don’t pay you, they don’t feed you, but I was wrong, and I’m so happy to be here.”
Zinta next starred in Samir Karnik’s Heroes (2008), a three-chapter road movie about two film students who, as part of an assignment, travel across North India to deliver three un-posted letters written by army personnel who lost their lives during the 1999 Kargil war to their families. Zinta is featured in the first chapter as Salman Khan’s war widow, Kuljeet Kaur, a woman who becomes the sole breadwinner of the family and single-handedly raises her son. In preparation for the role, Zinta attended Anupam Kher’s acting school, “Actor Prepares” to learn the dialect and mannerisms of a Punjabi woman. The film was released to a mixed critical reaction, but her performance received rave reviews; Anand Singh of Hindustan Times wrote: “Karnik is merely interested in wringing tears the old-fashioned way, and not in starting a debate. He succeeds—mainly because Preity Zinta brings to a role a gravitas and dignity that is seen on the faces of ordinary women—this may be her coming of age as an actress.”
By April 2008, Zinta had completed shooting for Jahnu Barua’s drama Har Pal. In the same year she played the leading role of Chand in Deepa Mehta’s Canadian film Heaven on Earth, a Punjabi language mystical drama based on the true story of a young Indian woman who, after an arranged marriage to a non-resident Indian man from Canada, migrates to Toronto and becomes a victim of severe domestic abuse. Expressing her desire for “a new kind of acting challenge”, Zinta described Mehta as one director she was longing to work with to fulfill it. To prepare for the part, she read and watched several books and documentaries on domestic violence. As the film was to be shot entirely in Punjabi, a language that was totally alien to her, she learnt it in a crash course of fifty days. She confessed to not being able to emotionally disconnect from the part during the making of the film: “I never knew a character would affect me so deeply. I’ve become completely withdrawn and introspective… I can’t snap out of the character.” She eventually called it her most challenging project, as it helped her “shed everything that Preity Zinta was about”. Heaven on Earth was first screened at several film festivals and, upon release, garnered career-best reviews for Zinta. Her performance earned her the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival, for “her strong yet subtle performance as a woman struggling to keep her dreams despite brutal realities”. She was also nominated for the Genie Award for Best Actress.
Hiatus and occasional returns (2009–present)
Following Heaven on Earth, Zinta took a two-year sabbatical from films, later explaining that she had chosen to focus on her work with her cricket team. In 2011 she launched her own production company, PZNZ Media. Two years later and following numerous delays, she starred in her first film under the banner—the Prem Raj-directed romantic comedy Ishkq in Paris, which she also co-wrote. An Indo-French collaboration, the film saw Zinta as a half-Indian half-French Parisian woman alongside Rhehan Malliek and Isabelle Adjani. Zinta’s role required her to learn French and follow a strict diet and fitness regime, for which she hired the services of celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson. Whilst the film bombed at the box office and received mostly negative reviews, Zinta’s performance attracted a mixed critical reception. Sonia Chopra of Sify called her “hugely likeable”, and added that she is a “good actress, astute producer and … writer”. Shilpa Jamkhandikar from Deccan Herald, critical of both the film and Zinta’s work, concluded a scathing review by calling it “a mediocre film, one that was supposed to showcase one of our favourite leading ladies, but instead just shows us what a shadow of her past she’s become”.
Following a five-year sabbatical, Zinta starred opposite Sunny Deol as an aggressive Varanasi-based wife in Neeraj Pathak’s action comedy Bhaiaji Superhit (2018). Ajit Duara of Open magazine called the film a “rude, sexist, and completely mixed-up farce” and bemoaned that the “once vivacious appears completely disinterested in her surroundings and in her co-actors”. In 2020, Zinta appeared alongside Vir Das in an episode of the American sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, titled “The Magic Motor Inn”; she will reprise her role in a spin-off series, centered around her character’s family.
In 2004, Zinta joined a group of South Asian commentators for BBC News Online. She expressed joy at participating in the project, saying, “I am pretty outspoken and have my own view on every subject. So it will be a good platform for me to air my views.” Her first column, “The changing face of Bollywood”, published in January 2004, discussed the evolution of Bollywood in the past decade. The column became one of the site’s ten most read stories of the day. In her second column, “Odds stacked against Indian women”, Zinta analysed the eve teasing phenomenon in India, and criticised those who practice it. She wrote, “Incidences like these take away a woman’s dignity, her space and her freedom … why the state is so helpless in protecting the women. Why should women feel unsafe in a country which had an internationally revered woman prime minister?” The column caught the attention of readers worldwide, and she received thousands of e-mails about it. It was applauded particularly by women for its stand against abuse of Indian women. Her third column, “The darkness that all actors fear”, was a more personal column and dealt with her stardom, fans, insecurity and fears as an actor. Her fourth and final column, titled “Facing death in Sri Lanka and Thailand”, described her two near-death experiences in late 2004.
Stage performances and television presenting
Zinta has taken part in several stage shows and world tours since 2001. Her first world tour, a series of concerts called Craze 2001, was performed across the US alongside Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Gracy Singh. The show faced early cancellation due to the 11 September 2001 attacks, and the team prepared to return to India as soon as possible. However, the shows continued successfully in Canada. In 2002, she participated in the show From India With Love in the UK, along with Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. It took place at two outdoor venues, Manchester’s Old Trafford and London’s Hyde Park, with over 100,000 spectators.
Zinta’s largest world tour was in 2004, when she joined a group of stars (Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, Saif Ali Khan, Arjun Rampal and Priyanka Chopra) in the Temptation 2004 tour. Showcased in over 22 countries across the world, it became Bollywood’s most prominent international concert. In 2006, Zinta was part of the Heat 2006 world tour, along with Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Sushmita Sen and Celina Jaitley. The Unforgettable Tour (2008) saw Zinta performing with the Bachchan family and Ritesh Deshmukh in a 40-day show staged in 11 cities across North America, Europe and the Caribbean. In December 2012, Zinta returned to the stage with the Temptation Reloaded concert in Jakarta (joined by Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerji and Bipasha Basu).
In 2011, Zinta made her television debut as the host of the show Guinness World Records – Ab India Todega on Colors Channel. An Indian version of Guinness Book of World Records, the show premiered on 18 March to an audience measurement of 3.3 rating points, which made it occupy the 7th position on the chart of celebrity-driven reality shows on Hindi entertainment channels. In a four-star review for Hindustan Times, critic Rachana Dubey wrote, “Preity is a riot. She’s vivacious and knows exactly when she needs to be serious and when she can crack jokes.” Later that year, Zinta started hosting the celebrity-based chat show Up Close & Personal with PZ, shot at her own penthouse in Mumbai and broadcast on the newly launched channel UTV Stars. The first episode aired on 3 September. In 2015, Zinta featured as a talent judge for the seventh season of the dance reality show Nach Baliye.
During her years in the film industry, Zinta has been involved with different charitable organisations and has particularly supported women’s causes in India, for instance protesting against female infanticide. She has also participated in AIDS awareness drives and campaigns to clean up Mumbai.
In 2005, along with other Bollywood stars, Zinta performed at the HELP! Telethon Concert raising money for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The following year, as an ambassador of the Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Movement, Zinta attended a blood donation camp organised by the Rotary Club of Delhi and the Godfrey Phillips Awards. She lent her support to the cause of women’s empowerment and promoted blood donation. She said, “Donating blood doesn’t kill one but goes on to save somebody’s life …. Once blood is donated it becomes universal and might be used by anyone in need, irrespective of community, caste or region. It binds people together.”
In 2007, Zinta visited Hisar, Haryana, where she spent a day at the army training base to boost the morale of the jawan troops. The visit was conducted for an NDTV show, Jai Jawan, on which entertainers and actors visit Indian troops. While there, she also met children with disabilities at a special school maintained by the army. In August, along with Mumbai-based artist Gurcharan Singh, Zinta painted for the cause of street children for the non-governmental organisation Khushi. In December, she joined the efforts of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to curb human trafficking in India. She spoke on behalf of awareness against the practice, the need for protection and rehabilitation for those rescued from it, and punishment for perpetrators.
In 2009, on her 34th birthday, Zinta adopted 34 girls from the Mother Miracle orphanage in Rishikesh and took the responsibility of financially supporting their education, food and clothing. She expressed her excitement at doing so: “I’ve adopted 34 girls. I’ll be looking after their entire upbringing from education to food, clothes etc. You’ve no idea how wonderful it feels to hear the excited chatter of all these girls together.”
In January 2010, Zinta was appointed the brand ambassador of The Loomba Trust, an organisation that works for the welfare of widows and their children. She said, having lost her father at 13, she could relate to the problems faced by widowed women. Later in the year, she joined the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) as their Goodwill Ambassador in India, to promote public awareness on HIV prevention, treatment and support, with emphasis on women and children, and combat discrimination against it. Speaking of her appointment, Zinta expressed hope to be “the voice for the voiceless” and bring about a “transformation in the minds of people” through collaborative work. In October 2010, Zinta was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of East London. It was awarded in honour of both her cultural contribution and her humanitarian work, with the citation describing her as “an international actress, pioneering star of Hindi cinema and devoted humanitarian. Preity has carved a path for women to follow.”
Ownership of cricket teams
Along with Ness Wadia, Mohit Burman and others, Zinta acquired ownership rights in 2008 for the Mohali-based Twenty20 cricket team of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The group paid $76 million to acquire the franchise, and had since named the team Kings XI Punjab. Until 2009, Zinta was the only woman to own an IPL team, and was the league’s youngest owner. She has been involved with launching ticket sales and promoting the team. She said, “My involvement with the team is total. I am extremely passionate about our team and I do believe that I am the team’s good luck factor, so I want to be there for everything.” In September 2017 Zinta became the owner of the Stellenbosch Kings franchise of South Africa’s T20 Global League.
Zinta used to visit her native town Shimla when she was not busy shooting. In 2006, she moved into her own home in Mumbai. She does not identify with any particular religion. In an interview with The Times of India, she comments, “I believe in good deeds, in karma, I don’t believe in going to temples. For me, religion is very personal. It’s all about having faith … We have heard and read that all religions are equal. Now I am increasingly believing in this.” She narrowly escaped death twice in late 2004: first after an explosion at a Temptation concert in Colombo, Sri Lanka; and second during the Indian Ocean earthquake.
Zinta has been the subject of several controversies. In 2003, as a witness in the Bharat Shah case, she testified against the Indian mafia. Bharat Shah, the financer of one of her films, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, was arrested in 2000 for having connections with Chhota Shakeel, a Mumbai underworld boss. Unlike several of her colleagues, Zinta repeated in court her earlier statement that she had received extortion threats from the mafia during the shooting of the film. After her testimony, she was given witness protection and was forced to stay out of the public eye for two months. Thirteen other witnesses before her, including celebrities Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, were witnesses in the case but later retracted their earlier statements. Zinta was the only witness who did not become hostile to the prosecution; the nation responded positively to her actions. Consequently, she was the first recipient of Godfrey’s Mind of Steel Award at the annual Red and White Bravery Awards, given to her for the “courageous act” of standing against the Mumbai Underworld. On receiving the award, she said, “To be brave is not to be fearless. It is when you fear and you get over it, then you can be called brave. I am human. It is not that I fear nothing. But getting over a fear is a continuous process and I have been successful so far.” Since 2006, Zinta has been the brand ambassador for the Godfrey Phillips Bravery awards.
Tabloids have often linked Zinta romantically with other Bollywood stars, but she has strongly denied any such rumours. In 2000, Zinta began dating model Marc Robinson. They separated the following year, and according to Zinta remained on good terms. Zinta dated the Bombay Dyeing heir, businessman Ness Wadia from February 2005 until May 2009. Their relationship was often reported on by the media, with frequent speculation about an engagement or a break-up. On 13 June 2014, Zinta filed a complaint with the Mumbai police against Ness Wadia alleging he had molested, threatened, and abused her at an IPL match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on 30 May. Wadia has denied the allegations.
On 29 February 2016, Zinta married her long-time American partner Gene Goodenough at a private ceremony in Los Angeles. Goodenough is Senior Vice-President for Finance at NLine Energy, a US-based hydroelectric power company.
Media image and artistry
Zinta is particularly known in the Indian media for her straightforward nature and for honestly expressing her forthright opinions in public, be it about her on-screen or off-screen life or raising a voice against social injustice. While she does not believe she is “as tough as people portray to be,” she asserts having no qualms about speaking her mind, even if faced with surmounting opposition, as long as she stands “by what’s right.” These features were noted during the Bharat Shah Case, when she testified against the underworld; following this incident she was often called by journalists “The only man in Bollywood”, a label she was unhappy with for its underlying anti-feminist connotations. Film actor Amitabh Bachchan, describing her as “frank and painfully honest,” lauded her “drive and guts in a world that can be most cruel to a single girl.” Author and columnist Shobhaa De, while commending her for lodging a molestation complaint against Ness Wadia in 2014, expressed concern regarding Zinta’s repeated quest for justice, believing it could eventually play against her: “India is not terribly kind to strong-willed, outspoken women who are dubbed ‘trouble makers’ if they dare to raise their voices, especially against men. Zinta is such a woman.”
Her characteristic dimple has been cited by the media as her trademark. At the beginning of her career, she was often described by the press as having a vivacious personality and a bubbly, outgoing persona, an image she had confessed to disliking. According to film critic Sukanya Verma, Zinta’s energetic nature extends from her real life into her appearances in films and is an integral part of her technique. In an article discussing Hindi film actresses and their flair for comedy, Verma wrote, “What can you say about an actress who giggles non-stop in a tone that is anything but prim and propah? She is carefree. She is animated. She talks non-stop. She laughs all the time. She has a chilled out sense of humour. And a tomboyish streak too. Preity Zinta is all that and more. All this greatly contributes to her style of acting.”
Director Tanuja Chandra, while filming Sangharsh in 1998, ascribed Zinta’s screen appeal to her lack of acting pretense, commenting, “She doesn’t act, she’s so real that you just can’t look away from her”. Reviewing Chori Chori Chupke Chupke for Hindustan Times, Vinayak Chakravorty noted that “there is an admirable zest that Preity pumps into every role she does”. Farhan Akhtar, who directed her in two movies, believes she is an actress who “can mould herself—the way she speaks, works and her body language—and adapt herself to roles,” while Vidhu Vinod Chopra (director of Mission Kashmir) credits her with the ability to “make the viewer believe even in the most convoluted situation.” In a review of Salaam Namaste, Australian film critic Jake Wilson observed, “While Preity Zinta isn’t the subtlest actress, she’s quite a comedienne – for a Hollywood equivalent to her combination of beauty, high-strung emotion and facial gymnastics you might have to go back to Natalie Wood.” American critic Derek Elley considers her to be “one of Bollywood’s best pure actresses.”
Following her portrayal of such characters as those in Sangharsh, Kya Kehna, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, Salaam Namaste and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Zinta gained a reputation for playing roles that go against Indian traditional mores and was often recognised for her versatility. Critics attributed her roles in these films as to establishing a new image for leading actresses in Bollywood. Karan Johar cites her as “a new-wave actress” who has the advantage of working at a time when “films portray a woman who knows her mind”. In the book Once Upon a Time in Bollywood, it is stated that Zinta “resists patriarchal constraints through her modern lifestyle and the controversial roles she chooses.”
Zinta is one of the best-known celebrities in India; at her career peak she was one of Hindi cinema’s most celebrated stars and was acknowledged for having managed a career without any traditional assistance or family relations in the film industry. In 2003, Zinta appeared in the number one spot on Rediff’s “Top Bollywood Female Stars”. She was ranked second for the following three years. She has been featured frequently on other Rediff lists, including “Bollywood’s Most Beautiful Actresses”, “Bollywood’s Best Dressed Women” and “Women of Many Faces”. Between 2006 and 2008 Zinta made three consecutive appearances at the Cannes Film Festival. At first she attended the 2006 Film Festival along with filmmaker Karan Johar to represent the Hindi film industry and promote Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, returning in later years as the brand ambassador of Chopard, the maker of luxury watches and jewellery.
In September 2006, the UK magazine Eastern Eye ranked her among “Asia’s Sexiest Women”. In 2010, Time magazine selected her as one of the candidates for its list of the world’s 100 most influential people. She was the only Indian actress nominated for the poll and eventually did not make it to the final list, ranked at 144. This was followed, however, by a marked period of decline in her popularity when she restricted her work in films, which was further decreased with the debacle of her self-produced comeback vehicle. Film journalists like Khalid Mohamed and Subhash K. Jha have written columns in which they lament her absence from the movies and encourage her to return to acting.