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Preity Zinta’s 5 Finest On Her  Birthday



Preity Zinta

Preity Zinta’s  5 Finest On Her  Birthday

  1. Kabhi Alvida  Na  Kehna(2006) Sometimes you hold a film close to your heart not because the characters embrace you, but for the opposite reason.The four protagonists who colonise Karan Johar’s marital romance are so distanced from their spouses and their dormant desires, you wonder why they got married!Or, why any two people decide to opt for what many would say is an obsolete institution in the first place!!Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna (KANK) is indeed a definite sign of Karan Johar’s maturation as an artiste and a filmmaker. This is a film that derives its inspiration energy from Karan’s favourite filmmaker Yash Chopra’s interesting but abortive Silsila.Even more interesting is the casting… the role of the unfaithful husband played in Chopra’s film by Amitabh Bachchan has gone to Shah Rukh Khan. A cranky bitter failed footballer Shah Rukh uses his wounded ego as a battering ram to destroy his marriage to the career-driven and yet domesticated Preity Zinta. It’s Abhishek Bachchan playing the utterly devoted husband’s role done by the dependable Sanjeev Kumar in  Silsila who hits the most honest notes.KANK showcases the biggest Bollywood stars in roles of fatally flawed spouses that normally would shake up the egoistic equilibrium of our stars.Hats off to Shah Rukh Khan for moving away from his Peter Pan image to play a husband and father who’s churlish and unreasonable – believably so. Shah Rukh imbues the tough role with his inherent charm, playing off his character’s bitter sarcasm against the two female protagonist’s supple femininity.Rani playing Abhishek’s cold  OCD-afflicted wife who comes alive in Shah Rukh’s company is the toughest character to play. A lot of eyebrows are going to go up at her unpredictable and often cruel rejection of a caring doting sensitive (etc, etc) husband for an embittered sharp-tongued man who projects his frustrations on his wife and timid 10-year-old son.But the emotions remain largely and gently indigenous. KANK is a triumph of star-driven opulence. If at heart it’s a clever take on infidelity, on the surface level it remains to the end a very good-looking film. Every technician from Anil Mehta (cinematography) to Sharmishta Roy (production design) to (Niranjan Iyenger (dialogues) and Javed Akhtar (lyrics) has striven passionately to furnish Karan Johar’s mellow-drama with a bedrock of aesthetic believability. The film looks glossy and glamorous and yet believable.Preity Zinta has  relatively less footage. To this, her reply  was  a classic: “”I don’t understand why some people feel Karan has gone too far. Arrey! People say, make something different. And when a filmmaker actually takes the plunge into a deeper end, people accuse him of going too far.Mention the limited space provided for Preity in the film, which revolves around infidelity, and she retorts: “Hey, we don’t really live in those times any more when actors measured the length of each other’s roles with measuring tapes, do we? Cinema has grown up. So have actors. KANK is proof of it.”Abhishek and I are like the anchors in the plot. I was never more scared of a role. A little bit this or that way, and my character could’ve toppled over.Thank god Rhea doesn’t come across as a bitch. I constantly kept looking at Karan for reassurance. I never had to be directed so closely before. ‘I don’t want Preity Zinta. I want Rhea Saran,’ Karan kept saying.
  2. Veer-Zara(2004): Old yet passionate, frail yet sublime, the estranged lovers in Yash Chopra’s eagerly awaited film are no ordinary love birds. Their body language, demeanour, speech and attitude hark back to an era when emotions were hallmarks of human nature, not designer things to be used as and when required in bubblegum concoctions that masquerade as romantic musicals in our wretched times.By the time the utterly evocative theme song about two inseparable souls torn apart by fate comes on, we’re so enamoured of Yash Chopra’s film that we surrender entirely and unquestioningly to his prescription of romantic passion.Just when we thought heart-warming tales of undying love were a dying art form, “Veer-Zaara” comes along. It is the sort of sublimely designed, delicately threaded romantic fable that comes once in a while to win hearts and influence people.After all, a film directed by Yash Chopra is no ordinary event. While telling a fluent story about a love that cuts captivatingly across the India-Pakistan border, Chopra, for the first time in his romantic oeuvre, introduces ideas that transcend romance.Through the strong and very memorable character of the rookie lawyer Samiya (Rani Mukherjee), ideas on female literacy and women’s empowerment seep into the narrative.Nothing about the romance between the Indian Air Force pilot and the aristocratic Pakistani girl is overstated. There are no raised voices (even when the heroine’s father scolds her he does it sotto voce).There’s no screaming, no attention-getting tactics…And yet the films gets it…All of our attention, though it takes a bit of time to get over the longish bits of Punjabi dialogues among Amitabh Bachchan (playing Shah Rukh’s prankish old-man), Hema Malini (hopelessly out of her depth in the robust Punjabi milieu), Shah Rukh and Preity.Once the slight hiccups are done, it’s as simple as falling in love.Veer-Zaara  builds its case for the protagonists’ unbreakable bonding through a neo-classical blend of song and emotion. Chopra unleashes a temperate tidal wave of feelings that swim teasingly just beneath the surface.The surge of love between two people belonging to entirely different cultures and lands is collected into a quaint and quivering collage of memory and melody.The narration moves of its own melodious volition. The music and songs by the late Madan Mohan and the profound yet simple poetry of Javed Akhtar supplement the melody of romance with enchanting articulations of heart that know not why they love and sing. They just do.Chopra has terrific help from cameraman Anil Mehta who beautifies the rugged rural landscape without making it appear fairytale-like in proportion. Shah Rukh and Preity fill the splendid rustic spaces with sounds of love.But the protagonists’ geopolitical credentials never appear forced or laboured. Veer and Zaara are who they are. In sequences such as the one where Veer meets Zaara’s fiancé (Manoj Bajpai) on the railway station, or when Zaara’s mother (the brilliantly passionate Kirron Kher) implores Veer to give back her daughter for the sake of family honour, are potentially clichéd situations converted into a celebration of life through the writer’s imagination.The writing skills imparted to the story of ‘forbidden’ love are immense, and so is the performance level of the cast. Rani’s deeply studied, utterly heroic part of the activist-lawyer is uplifting.Once again Shah Rukh confers his charismatic personality on a role that has many shades of emotions. His performance as the old man in the courtroom where after being absolved of all crimes he reads out a poem is rabble rousing.And those who thought Preity couldn’t be rustic and earthy, better watch this.
  3. Heaven On  Earth(2008):  When the first slap comes, it hits the audience hard across the face.Spousal abuse as a theme is not new to cinema. What sets Deepa Mehta’s “Heaven On Earth” apart from other films including Jagmohan Mundhra’s “Provoked” is the fusion of unspoken unexpressed terror with mythological elements all packed with sardine-like compactness into a small apartment in Ontario, Canada, where Chand arrives fearful and hopeful after her wedding.What she brings with her is her mother’s tales and homilies, songs and mythology that follow the bride into her chamber of horrors.What follows in Chand’s new life is a nightmare that could claim the life of any Indian bride transported into a foreign country after marriage.Absolute authenticity is the hallmark of Deepa Mehta’s vision. Her permanent cinematographer Giles Nuttgens enters Chand’s adopted Canadian home with her and remains by her side, living her pain, experiencing her humiliation and agony, as within no time Chand becomes that nightmarish entity whom we all read about in crime sections of the papers: the abused wife.The film’s greatest triumph is its economy of expression. The tightly-wound tale of the tormented wife is never allowed to have loose moments. Ironically, outwardly we see a warm home filled with a Sikh family half of whom seem to have absolutely nothing to do. Within their abject nullity lies the secret to the violence that claims, possesses and tries to smother Chand’s domestic dreams.We know from the start that she’ll escape the nightmare of a brutal marriage. That she lives to tell her tale is self-evident. The magic of her existence in the trap of an arranged marriage lies in the illusion of normalcy and compassion that she creates within the ambience of abject terror by inventing a double for her husband… a doppelganger, a spirit in human form, if you will, who applies balm to all of Chand’s wounds and gives her the courage to survive when the very breath of her existence is being choked out.The snake-god from Chand’s backyard in human form assuming the physical traits of her violent husband is a metaphor that illuminates the darkest recesses of Chand’s life. Every time she hides in her bedroom for a dialogue with her phantom-soul mate, Preity Zinta’s face lights up with thousands of unexpressed yearnings trapped in a heart that aches for release. Preity lights up the darkest corners of her tortured and frightened character’s heart.Thoroughly deglamorized and devastated by destiny’s cruel blows, Preity plays Chand with dignity and depth that take us by surprise. She and director Deepa Mehta keep the hysteria completely in check. The drama is generated completely from the normal domesticated sounds and sights.The film creates the growing claustrophobia of Chand’s marital domesticity with acute austerity. The spurts of on-screen violence are all the more shocking for the way they erupt within the workaday milieu.The one big sequence of violence erupts in the kitchen when Chand’s somewhat confused and altogether out-of-control husband Rocky thrashes his wife… for his outwardly-stoic mother’s sake of course.There are no villains in Heaven On Earth,  not even the husband Rocky (played with understanding by newcomer Vansh Bhardwaj) who hits out at wounds that are never allowed to heal. There are only victims in Deepa’s scheme of presentation. Silently-screaming puppets on a string being manoeuvred into a life of domesticated dereliction by forces that we could designate as fate or just cruel blows of workaday drudgery.The mythic intervention that creeps into the plot with the appearance of the naag in Chand’s backyard, slithers into the scenario with surreptitious grace, creating for the theme a residue of myth and dream that nourishes the wife’s bereft kingdom.The borderline between illusion and reality, between Chand’s violent reality and the world of harmony and love she creates in the womb of her heart, is so superbly seamless we never know when Chand’s smothered scream transforms into a silent whoop of triumph.Heaven On Earth is not a film that offers easily digestible solutions to the complex problem of domestic violence. It neither takes sides nor allows the bride to turn into a pitiable victim. Preity standing supremely dignified at the centre of the conflict furnishes the theme with amazing grace. She’s the only known face in the crowded Punjabi home of patriarchs, matriarchs, victims and perpetrators of bitter violence. But Preity never lets it known she’s a star.She merges into the terrifying domesticity of Deepa’s household. The character steps out occasionally into the workaday world of a migrant job (the friendship with the feisty Jamaican woman at her workplace rings a little hollow when compared with the reality that envelopes the the rest of the plot) and returns to her horrific home space where she creates a mythical merger between illusion and reality.Finally when Chand says goodbye to a life of married trauma, we see on Preity’s face a mixture of distant triumph and immediate self-realisation. She finally comes home.
  4. Kal Ha  No Ha(2003):   Shah Rukh Khan for once is not Shah Rukh Khan but Aman Mathur, the character he essays. For once you truly forget that SRK is here to play himself. Preity Zinta as Naina Catherine Kapur, her mother Jennifer (Jaya Bachchan) and her ‘friend’ Rohit (Saif Ali) are the perfect foils for SRK’s histrionics, which don’t go overboard. The tenor and tone of the film rests on the dialogues and screenplay, the former penned by Niranjan Iyengar and the latter the brain-child of Karan Johar. More than once reminiscent of Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai – in terms of its candid, urbane humour, KHNH’s fresh, cheeky attitude comes from its lead characters.Funny for most part, the film makes a transition to tragedy in the end with ease. Even better rather than find the weepy scenes funny and unbelievable, one finds oneself empathizing with the characters’ plight.What definitely comes through is the fact Dil Chahta Hai has set the tone for future Bollywood romances/comedies. No longer will the melodrama overshadow intelligent, believable humour.Dil Chahta Hai showed the way (is still light years ahead) but KHNH has taken the hint. The irrerevence for hallowed Hindi cinema and its protected formulae is much in evidence – again a hangover from Dil Chahta Hai.KHNH has definitely made Karan Johar a Hero once again and SRK gets to retain his King-ly status.
  5. The Last Lear(2007):  Preity  Zinta does here what most actors shy away from. She actually listens to her co-stars as they express their angst.The film is littered with luminous performances. If Divya is quiet and warm in her small role, Shefali simply takes over the screen each time she walks into the frame.And after Rock On, Arjun Rampal delivers another pain-lashed performance.As for Amitabh Bachchan, he goes from venom to vitality in quick succession, creating for his character a kingdom of theatrical yearnings.Rituparno  Ghosh has created a world carved out of mahogany-like glistening surfaces, hiding fears and anxieties that have little to do with Harish’s age, and everything to do with the rage that the experience of life brings in its wake.Indranil Ghosh’s artwork and Abhik Mukherjee’s cameras write out the poetry of the motion picture.Greatness, they say, is never thrust on you. You are either born with it. Or you are not. Amitabh Bachchan is at a place today where nothing and everything he does surprises us.The Bachchan saga gets one more twist in the tale as the ageing, cantankerous, flamboyant, eccentric and embittered Shakespearean actor battles old age, unwieldy hair and a receding genius.And what a tale! Rituparno Ghosh specialises in telling stories that pitch two utterly unmatched characters against each other in a battle where the lines are drawn between the egos of the two individuals.So we have this bearded ‘intense’ director Siddharth (Arjun Rampal) who decides to make a film on the life of an unemployed ageing clown. For the role, he approaches the reclusive wacky stage actor Harish Mishra (Amitabh) who sneers wryly at the very thought of entering cinema at his age, and then warms up to the idea and gives the part his heart and soul.Interesting possibilities pitching cinema against theatre examined, explored, searched and dissected by the director with the microscopic manoeuvrings of emotions that the camera ferrets out of the human heart and makes visible to our eyes.In Ghosh’s incandescent world of human suffering and redemption, you won’t find more than two people in the same room at any given time. Sometimes there are three. But then the third individual is so still in her space, you hardly notice her/his presence beyond a shadow.Such is the truth of Divya Dutta’s character. As the benevolent nurse on night duty to look after the dying Shakespearean actor, she gives the actor’s mistress Vandana (Shefali Shah) and his co-star Shabnam (Preity Zinta) quiet company. The two women talk the night away on the man they’re both fascinated by.Ghosh goes backward in time from the night the film featuring Harish Mishra is premiered to the interactive events leading up to his selection and shooting for the film.The narration is purposely loose-limbed. Even the one-to-one interactions that are the backbone of this beautifully layered chamber-piece are done with the casual grace of a trapeze dancer walking the familiar tightrope blindfolded and not fearful of the fall.The characters are all in desperate need of redemption. Whether it’s the jaded but still-spirited Shakespearean actor or his unhappy overworked mistress, or the model-turned actress Shabnam, or even the young journalist (Jisshu Sengupta) trying to piece together the opulent mystique of the Shakespearean actor’s ego and enigma – the characters are perched on the brink of self-destruction, holding on to that thread of self-esteem, which keeps them from that fatal fall.The Last Lear  was  Ghosh’s second film in a row after the Bengali movie Khela to be located in the film world. The distance between the ‘reality’ of the acting world and the realism of the real world where people are often acting before one another, is covered by the sensitive director with supple grace.The English dialogues are spun in spoken sensitivity. But the words do get in the way of the characters sometimes.When the film starts Shabnam as played  by Zinta  is on the verge of breaking up with her suspicious husband. By the time she starts shooting with Harish Mishra in a scenic hill station, she’s in an off-camera dialogue with her aged co-star and ready to scream out her angst in a war-cry of articulated liberation.The Last Lear  is actually a series of dramatic dialogues sewn together in a pastiche that suggests pain to be the constant subliminal text of all human interactions.Watch The Last Lear to see the layerings of emotion that the director extends into his narration without losing sight of the lightness of touch in the outer crust.
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