'I'm on Cloud Nine'even higher, actually.' Preity Zinta sounds like she's on top of the world. She's currently in Thailand shooting a shampoo ad. News of the extremely encouraging opening of her new Yash Chopra film, Veer-Zaara, has Preity chuckling with delight.
'Though I missed the film's opening in Mumbai the responses that I've been getting back here are very very encouraging. Of course, a Yash Raj film is special by its very definition. But people are struck by how decent and aesthetic the story and treatment are. At a time when girls are wearing next to nothing, here's a film where the heroine is covered from head to toe in the prettiest clothes possible. After a long time, Veera-Zaara brings a film that the entire family can watch comfortably.'
She admits there was a certain amount of trepidation about being able to carry off a Pakistani-Muslim girl's role. 'So far, I had only played contemporary urban metro-centric characters. Zaara was completely new and alien to me. How would I do it' I got knots in my stomach. It was Yash Uncle (filmmaker Yash Chopra) who held my hand and guided me through the film. Will I look like a Pakistani' 'Leave it to me, beta,' he told me. My styling was very important. The salwar-kameez, the nose ring'were all Yash Uncle's idea. My hair was styled by Dilshad who gave my hair a brownish henna-colour look.
'Don't you think it helped' It' s an absolute honour to be a Yash Chopra heroine after Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit. If I've pulled it off in spite of my very contemporary image in Dil Chahta Hai, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Lakshya it's all because of the aura and ambience created in the film.'
Preity doesn't wait for our response. 'And I must mention Shah Rukh Khan. He's outstanding in the film. Don't you think he's 100 per cent convincing as the old man' And what about me' Do you think I carry off the old woman's part' Shah Rukh and I had done Dil Se together. Then after a long gap we did Kal Ho Naa Ho. Now after Veer-Zaara don't you think we make quite a pair' And we had such a fabulous script. I don't think any actor can rise above the material given to her. But a lot of incompetent actors can pull down a good script. Trust me on that!'
Preity hopes to be cast with SRK again. 'He's such a helpful costar, it's amazing. I don't think my performance would be half of what it is without him. He's a selfless actor. During Veer-Zaara I tripped and fell, I blacked out' he was always there to lend me a helping hand. He would go out of his way to cooperate. His commitment to the project was so complete. And look how beautifully he has performed in Veer-Zaara! When he reads the poem in the courtroom there isn't a single dry eye in the audience.'
Now Preity talks about her favourite scenes in the film. 'I love Shah Rukh's poetry scene. I also love that sequence where Anupam Kher tells Rani it's time for the younger generation to help in removing the impediments to an Indo-Pak friendship. I strongly feel Veer-Zaara should be released in Pakistan, not just for the sake of relations between the two countries but also because Shah Rukh has such an awesome fan following there. A friend of mine from Pakistan saw the film. He thinks Veer-Zaara should be shown to President Musharraf rightaway.'
Pausing for breath she continues, 'At a time when so many films were lashing out at our neighbours, Veer-Zaara's message of peace is so refreshing.'
Preity also raves about Amitabh Bachchan. 'His entry brings the house down. I think it takes a Yash Chopra to know how to use an Amitabh Bachchan correctly.'
Tell her it's unlikely she'd ever be in a love legend like Veer-Zaara again, and she sighs. 'I guess you're right. I remember I was in New York shooting for Kal Ho Naa Ho, longing to be in a love legend like Heer-Ranjha or Laila Majnu. I guess someone up there was listening to me. I feel very humbled by the kind of response Veer-Zaara has got me.'
So far Preity has signed no new film. 'Though I'm in the process of signing two very big new films... Right now let me enjoy the success of Veer-Zaara.'