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IPL opened new doors for me: Priety

Hollywood actress Priety Zinta gets candid on Kings XI game plan for Season 3, returning to the movies and the woes of being single again...

entertainment Updated: Jan 28, 2010 20:34 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Preity ZintaSeason 3 of IPL is coming up. What’s the game plan for Kings XI Punjab?

For starters, a big thank you to South Africa for hosting Season 2 but I’m glad we’re back in India. And super excited about going with my team to Dharamshala. Twelve years ago, I came down from Himachal as a student in criminal psychology. In Mumbai, life took a U-turn. I’ve never been to an acting school yet I became a movie star and won several Best Actress awards too. Unbelievable but true! Now, I’m going back home as an actress and co-owner of a cricket team. Life’s come a full circle.

The team has a new captain now.
Yeah, Kumar Sangakkara, who captains Sri Lanka. We’re a young team and learning with each game. The other teams have also shuffled positions, what’s the big deal!

Buzz is that you were unhappy with Yuvraj Singh’s form and captaincy?
Hey, don’t go looking for a controversy that isn’t there. This was an amicable decision taken by the team as a whole. Yuvi is our most valuable player, a match-winner with the bat and the ball. Last season, he took a hat-trick and hit the ball out of the ground several times. We’re looking for a repeat act. He’s amazing, so is Sanga. And win or lose, we’re in this together.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ franchise owner, Shah Rukh Khan, insists that Pakistani players should have been picked at the recent auction. What’s your take on this issue that has snowballed into an international crisis between the two countries?
As far as Kings XI Punjab is concerned, we never did have any players from Pakistan in our team. And this year, we had just one slot to fill. Since Yusuf Abdulla from South Africa who won some tough matches for us last season, had been put back in the auction, we bid for him. He was a replacement player but he’d integrated well with the team and we wanted him back.

Everyone’s talking about Pakistani players not being picked but no Australian player was either. Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Brett Lee are match-winners but the team feels short-charged when they’re not available to you despite the huge advance you paid for them.

Availability and reliability will be taken into consideration when contracts comes up for renewal. Still, such issues should not politicised. Cricket should be played in the spirit of the game.

Well, the game is all set to take a leap forward with IPL tying up with Colors on an entertainment package.
Yeah, and the deal is going to benefit all franchise owners in terms of revenue and the spectators in terms of viewership. Imagine watching a ‘sniffer’ from Brett Lee ballooning up on air and a player waiting to take a catch. Whoa!

I used to think that there was no better place than the dug-out to watch a match. But now with 3D, I think a TV or movie screen is best. There will also be ‘live’ streaming on Google and YouTube. Cricket will never be the same again.

IPL is also set to get bigger with the inclusion of two new teams.
All the franchise owners were aware of this well before the start of Season 1. But at the time there was still 24 months to go and no one raised any questions. Now, there may be some queries, as competition gets stiffer.

Kings XI Punjab has always been a much-fancied side but has yet to live up to the expectations raised. Think you’ll put up a better show this time?
If we are a fit XI, we’ll be hard to beat. Last season, seven of our best players, including Yuvraj, Brett Lee, Jerome Taylor, James Hopes. Sreesanth, VRV Singh and Mahela Jayawardane were either down with injuries or unavailable to us.

You’ve given two years to IPL already with movies taking a backseat. Any regrets?
None at all, if anything, cricket has enriched my life and opened new doors to the world of business. We’re not talking a couple of lakh or even crore here but $200 million.

It used to unnerve me at the beginning but instead of being dumb, literally, I started asking questions even at the risk of sounding dumb.

I even went to Harvard Business School where I was taught to think big. I didn’t want be a pretty face at board meetings, wearing a lot of make-up and curlers in my hair. Today, I can talk as knowledgeably about cricket as I can about a blimp stand camera.

Well, it’s been a while since you faced the movie camera.
When I bought myself an IPL team, I decided to take an eight month break from movies. I was at the top of my career then and it wasn’t easy to venture out of my comfort zone and learn something from scratch. But I made the effort and the eight months stretched to 18.

There were offers but at that point, I couldn’t afford to go on a three-month outdoor and be completely cut off from my team. I could only take on films that needed 20-30 days and were being shot at home.

I was honest about this and that endeared me to my producers who’ve been waiting since for me to come back.

You did make a fleeting comeback in a special appearance for Main Aur Mrs Khanna last Diwali.
I did that cameo for Prem (director Prem Soni). And I was so nervous on the first day, wondering if I’d remember how to dance since I hadn’t done much of it in the last two years. There were films like Heroes, Last Lear and Heaven On Earth that had me playing an earthy woman rather than a cool chick, roles that added layers to my persona as an actress.

So, have you forgotten how to dance?
No way! In fact, you’ll see the bubbly Preity Zinta back in glamorous, naach gaana roles by the end of the year or early 2011.

As an actor you live in a closed world. And then, I was so engrossed with cricket that I had no idea how much my fans were missing me. Coming on Twitter was a revelation. I have 35,000 followers and of these 34,800 are only cribbing about how cricket has stole the movie star away. Well, I can assure them and you, dil se, that Preity will be back, on screen, soon. Expect some big announcements.

Since we’re talking about dil, despite the break-up, you and Ness Wadia seemed pretty amicable when you came together for the recent IPL auction.
And why not? We’re mature individuals and good friends. I know I can rely on Ness and vice versa. The only change was that at this auction I wasn’t wearing my lucky red dress. (Laughs) I’m keeping that for bigger auctions.

You’re wearing a diamond on your ring finger. Does that say something new?
This ring is a pre-birthday gift from my mom. Now that I am single, I can flaunt it. No one loves me more than mom anyway.

I’m single and happy to mingle. The only problem is that no one wants to keep me company. My girlfriends crib that if they are seen with me they will be dismissed as hangers-on. And the guys are scared of being ‘linked’. I can’t blame them. I call Prem (Soni) 10 times, remind him that I did his movie, literally bulldoze him into accompanying me to an award show, and the next thing I know, we are an “item”. Oof, at this rate I’m going to be only and lonely! That would be sad because I need my friends around me.

Super six

Priety lists her fave films
Dil Se (’98): It was my first release and I soon got tired of people quoting my line from the film, “Are you a virgin?” I remember shooting Jiya jale… on the beach, wearing a sari that barely covered me, and feeling really shy. Shah Rukh (Khan) won my heart by telling me, “You look great, don’t be nervous.”

Kya Kehna (’99): It’s memorable because it was the first film I signed and the first time I faced the camera.

Dil Chahta Hai (2001): I had so much fun shooting the film because I did not have to overact. I could be cool, normal and me.

Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003): I have fond memories of the film because of Yash (Johar) uncle, Karan’s father. He called me his ‘Shimla girl’.

Veer-Zaara (2004): It’s special because of another Yash (Chopra) uncle who would call me his ‘Himachal ki heroine’ and feed me every morning and evening because girls in the ’70s, he was always pointing out, were curvy and well-nourished. I’m really proud of my Zaara.

Heaven On Earth (2007): It’s by far the toughest film I’ve done. I used to think life was unfair because it took away my father from me too early. But doing Deepa’s (Mehta) film I realised that the early loss made me the person I am today. And that there are women who have a lot more to curse life for but don’t.

This was one film I had to do. It didn’t matter if it did well commercially or not, I knew it would make a difference to a lot of lives. It bagged me my first international Award, Silver Hugo for Best Actress at the Chicago Film Festival.


‘Dharamji and I haven’t done anything wrong’

On Har Pal
Har Pal
should be out this year. I hope people will come to watch it. Just because one of the actors (Shiney Ahuja) associated with it, has done something wrong, it’s no reason for people to take their anger out on our film. I’m praying they will think of Dharamji (Dharmendra) and me who haven’t done anything wrong.


‘You’ve seen me without make-up’

On her ‘youthful’ good looks
I eat healthy, sleep early, spend on expensive skin products, may be that’s the reason for my ‘youthful’ looks.

People will talk, it doesn’t bother me. I know I don’t have to resort to surgery to stay beautiful. I don’t even care for make-up. You’ve seen me in Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Heaven On Earth sans make-up. And you see me every year in the dug-out during IPL without a trace of it.

As an actress I’m used to travelling with 30 suitcases of designer wear. As an IPL team owner, I carry one duffel bag with one pair of jeans and a T-shirt that I wash and wear because they are supposedly ‘lucky’.

I know 30 cameras are zooming on on me during a match but I don’t care how I Iook, if I’m laughing or even crying. You can’t be an actress on the cricket ground.


Behind the Seams With PZ

On her TV show
Behind The Seams With PZ is a show I’m producing so the question of remuneration doesn’t arise. It’s shot, I’m in talks with channels, it should be on air soon.

It’s a look at my life running a cricket team. There is so much of co-ordination and travelling involved. You’re on a flight at 7 am, playing a match in Delhi at 5 pm, back on plane the next morning on your way to Hyderabad for another match. Phew!

We haven’t followed a script. (Laughs) I joke that since my team is from the North, ‘sab real hai’ (it’s all real), if it was from down South, nariyal hoti (it would have been a coconut).