MUMBAI: Effervescent Preity Zinta's is back in town and busy doing social work, reading scripts and unwinding.
"Last month I had a huge screening of Jaan-e-Mann, strictly for children under 15. Can you believe, I have not been in India to enjoy the release of any of my films since Koi...Mil Gaya. I wasn't here even for Veer-Zaara.
"After Koi...Mila Gaya, Jaan-e-Mann was another child-friendly film... It was clean, funny and very easy on the eyes. Since I was here for one of my releases after a long time, I wanted it to be a special occasion," Preity said in an interview.
Why just kids?
"I wanted to have a blast. Kids love you unconditionally. I wanted to give kids from the Make A Wish Foundation and other charitable institutions a reason to smile."
Jaan-e-Mann elicits high marks for its director from the actress who played the female lead in the triangular love story.
"Shirish Kunder is a man of a few words but with the strongest visual sense. Since he's a film editor, he knows exactly where to cut, and what. Sometimes during shooting I wasn't sure of what he was doing. We'd rehearse and rehearse and then I'd wonder where it was going. But then I'd see the final shot and go, 'Wow!'"
Preity shot simultaneously for Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK) and Jaan-e-Mann.
"And both partly in New York. But because I was so made-up in KANK I kept my look and make-up very simple in Jaan-e-Mann. Also, Shirish wanted the make-up to be minimalist. And to create a different look becomes easier when you're doing both films together. KANK was more about power dressing. In Jaan-e-Mann, I'm softer, more feminine."
After the tension of playing a woman on the brink of divorce in KANK, Jaan-e-Mann helped Preity unwind.
"One barely saw me smile in KANK. I play a much happier character in Jaan-e-Mann. In KANK I was fighting my favourite actor. Fighting Shah Rukh Khan wasn't easy. To be up against him was very taxing."
Preity enjoyed working with Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan in Jaan-e-Mann.
"I worked with Akshay in Sangharsh many years ago. That was a very serious film. Akshay has got only better. He looks and acts better. He'd be on the sets at 5 a.m. I'd be like, 'Don't you have a life?' I've never seen him lose his cool. He's wonderful, always happy at work.
"As for Salman, I've worked in three films with him before this. Salman has his own style. He stands out in crowd."
She's been living out of suitcases for so long, it isn't funny any more.
"I like travelling. But suddenly I'd wake up one fine day in some country and want to go back home. But in half an hour I was back to normal. Yes, I'm strong and sensible. The long absences make me love my country even more."
Preity, who is working in Shaad Ali's Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom, says he is a likeable director.
"I was shooting for Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom in London. Shaad was a revelation... very nice, very cute."
Preity shares a very special bonding with Abhishek.
"He's amazing to work with. He and I had little bits together in Salaam Namaste and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. But this was our first full-fledged film together. I've come back from London loving him even more. He's so adorable. Absolutely fantastic!
"As for Bobby, he isn't chatty. But not quite reserved either... thank god I did a fun film like Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom. Even Jaan-e-Mann has a very strong emotional quotient."
Preity wonders about the variety of co-stars she has had - from both the Deol brothers, Sunny and Bobby, to Shah Rukh and Abhishek.
"I guess I've been lucky. I've shared a great rapport with all of them. As for the female co-stars, they're fine too. Except that I'm expected to become best friends with each one I work with. I don't make best friends with my co-stars, male or female. But Abhishek is a buddy."
Jaan-e-Mann was Preity's second release this year.
"Now that I'm back in the country I need to sign another film. I wish they'd come to me with something seriously tempting. So far, I've been picky. But I'm okay with my pace.
"The minute I sign a film I get another, better offer, which I can't do because I've already allotted my dates. That's been happening to me for two years now. But yes, I'm signing a new film very soon."