Preity Zinta , born January 31, 1975) is an Indian film actress. She has appeared in Hindi films of Bollywood, as well as Telugu and English-language movies. After graduating with a degree in criminal psychology, Zinta made her acting debut in Dil Se in 1998 followed by a role in Soldier the same year. These performances earned her a Filmfare Best Female Debut Award, and she was later recognised for her role as a teenage single mother in Kya Kehna (2000). She subsequently played a variety of character types, and in doing so has been credited with changing the image of a Hindi film heroine.
Zinta received her first Filmfare Best Actress Award in 2003 for her performance in the drama Kal Ho Naa Ho. She went on to play the lead female role in two consecutive annual top-grossing films in India: the science fiction film Koi... Mil Gaya, her biggest commercial success, and the star-crossed romance Veer-Zaara, which earned her critical acclaim. She was later noted for her portrayal of independent, modern Indian women in Salaam Namaste and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, top-grossing productions in overseas markets. These accomplishments have established her as a leading actress of Hindi cinema.
In addition to movie acting, Zinta has written a series of columns for BBC News Online South Asia, is a regular stage performer, and along with boyfriend Ness Wadia she is a co-owner of the Indian Premier League cricket team Kings XI Punjab. She is known in the Indian media for publicly speaking her mind and openly expressing her opinions, occasionally sparking controversy. These controversies include her being the only witness not to retract in court her earlier statements against the Indian mafia during the 2003 Bharat Shah case, for which she was awarded the Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Award.
Zinta was born into a Hindu Rajput family from Rohru in Shimla district, Himachal Pradesh. Her father, Durganand Zinta, was an officer in the Indian Army. He died in a car accident when she was 13 years old; the accident also involved her mother, Nilprabha, who was severely injured and consequently remained bedridden for two years. Zinta has stated that the tragic accident and her father's death was a significant turning point in her life, which forced her to mature rapidly. She has two brothers; Deepankar and Manish, a year older and a year younger respectively. Deepankar is a commissioned officer in the Indian Army, while Manish lives in California.
Zinta, who describes herself as a tomboy as a child, has emphasised her father's military background as having a lasting impression on how family life was conducted. He asserted the importance of discipline and punctuality to the children. She studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary boarding school in Shimla. Although she confesses to loneliness in the boarding school, she noted that it was compensated by her finding a "... perfect set of friends" there. As a student, she developed a love for literature, particularly the works of William Shakespeare and poetry. According to Zinta, she enjoyed schoolwork and received good grades; in her free time she played sports, especially basketball.
Upon graduating from the boarding school at age 18, Zinta enrolled at St Bede's College in Shimla. She graduated college with an English honours degree, and then started a graduate programme in psychology. She earned a postgraduate degree in criminal psychology, but later took up modelling. Zinta's first television commercial was for Perk chocolates, the result of a chance meeting with a director at a friend's birthday party in 1996. The director persuaded Zinta to audition for the spot, and she was selected. Afterwards, she appeared in other catalogues and commercials, including one for the soap Liril.