Hindi film industry often boasts of two kinds of actors. One, who bank on their looks and personality alone to woo the audience and second, the ones who win hearts with their craft. Preity Zinta has found her own place somewhere between the two. Known around the globe for her dimples, Preity has constantly experimented with her roles in her decade-long career, be it the forthright Priya (Kya Kehna), the naive Shalini (Dil Chahta Hai) or the uptight Naina (Kal Ho Naa Ho).
Preity Zinta made her debut in 1998 with Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se. And despite having no more than 20 minutes of screen time, she left an impression in the minds of fans. However, it was her breakthrough performance as a single mother in Kya Kehna that helped her gain a foothold in the industry. She has often taken up unconventional characters, like the surrogate prostitute in Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, and given layered and nuanced performances. Here are her five best performances:
Kya Kehna (2000)
Preity Zinta’s portrayal of single teenage mother Priya Bakshi in Kundan Shah’s Kya Kehna was a breakthrough performance, not just because it broke the stereotypes against pre-marital pregnancy but also because, Priya takes the liberty of falling in love with two different men over time. And seldom had our industry portrayed female characters facing such choices. Though not an exceptional success at the time of its release, Kya Kehna became a sleeper hit later.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai had for long been credited as the most definitive film on friendships in Bollywood. It was also the first coming-of-age films that portrayed Indian youth in a way that was not only realistic but also relatable. In Dil Chahta Hai, Preity Zinta plays Aamir’s love interest Shalini. And it’s her strong character story that makes Preity’s act believable. Yes, she does dog down under her family’s pressure to marry a guy she doesn’t want to but her practical approach to life is perfectly summed up in her dialogue, “But Rohit’s a good guy. He has a few flaws. Who doesn’t?”
Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)
Preity Zinta gave the geeky ‘chashmish’ look a new meaning with her act as Naina Mathur in Kal Ho Naa Ho. Introduced as an uptight barely-ever-smiling girl in the beginning, Naina’s character takes a leap through the course of the film by going through the pangs of love for Aman (Shah Rukh Khan). Naina’s unbridled laugter, her forthrightness along with her insecurities made her one of the most relatable characters in the film.
Zinta plays star-crossed lover Zaara Haayat Khan opposite Shah Rukh Khan’s Veer Pratap Singh. She recieved a lot of appreciation from critics for her portrayal of a Pakistani woman who falls in love with an Indian man. Her performance was restrained yet lively and kept audiences hooked to the screens.
Preity Zinta and Farhan Akhtar joined hands again for the 2004 war drama Lakshya. Preity’s performance as Romila Dutta, a student activist and reporter is quirky and energetic in the beginning but it turns even more nuanced when she joins Hrithik Roshan’s character Karan to cover the 1999 Kargil War.
Happy 43rd, Preity Zinta!