New Delhi: "Are you a virgin?" asked the new actress in Mani Ratnam's 'Dil Se' to Shah Rukh Khan. And just like SRK had almost choked on his food at that question in the film, the viewers were forced to get up and take notice of a young zesty Preity Zinta.
Back in 1998, Preity's debut performance in 'Dil Se' came as a breath of fresh air. The girl, who was a known face on TV thanks to her appearances in various ads, looked real. And even though she stuck to basic commercial cinema and did films like 'Soldier', 'Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega' and the likes, Preity's image as a bubbly girl next door made her one of the popular heroines of the early 2000s. Even in the conventional roles, there was something about her that all of us could relate to. She wasn't the usual Hindi film heroine.
She spoke her mind, stood up against the mighty underworld by testifying during the Bharat Shah case and even admitted that she had received threat calls from the underworld, something that most of her colleagues in the film industry were scared to admit. Hailed as the only 'Man in the film industry', Preity's honest approach to most things murky made her stand out from the herd. Few films with the industry's big daddy's - Karan Johar and Yash Chopra, some blockbuster hits like 'Kal Ho Naa Ho', 'Koi Mil Gayaa' and 'Veer Zara' and it seemed there was no looking back for this Shimla girl.
But somewhere, during that dream run, something went wrong. Movies started failing at the Box-Office, her IPL team got into controversies and almost got banned from the tournament, and Preity's personal life became fodder to fill up gossip columns of tabloids. The perky Zinta's quick repartee on all issues under the sun became less.
When she announced her maiden production venture, 'Ishkq In Paris'- her fans hoped to see their favourite actress back on the screen with the same freshness that they have associated her to all these years. But at a time when new kind of stories are being narrated in Hindi cinema, sticking to a stereotypical love story was perhaps not the best idea to make a comeback in the film industry.
From flaws in the script, to illogical sub plots, Preity's come back venture, which she had co-written with director Prem Raj, is a debacle to say the least. Stuck in time, Preity seemed to have played the same bubbly chirpy girl that she has always been playing on the big screen. Sure at 23 it suited her, but at 37 it looked forced.
Her contemporaries and even her seniors are now slowly treading the path unknown. Kareena has done a 'Heroine', Rani has attempted to come out of the comfort zone in 'Bombay Talkies' and even Sridevi made a remarkable impact as Sashi in 'English Vinglish'. The audience has been receptive to all new kinds of films and roles.
In an attempt to stick to her comfort zone, Preity's comeback venture has turned out to be a hurriedly put together film comprising of elements from other blockbuster films. But the Hindi film audience has come a long way since the last time Preity made an appearance as a lead in a film (it was in 2008 in a film called 'Heroes') and the actress is clearly not aware of that.