Preeti Jhangiani had a stellar start to her acting career with hits down south and of course, her Hindi debut Mohabbatein being a blockbuster. Having acted in a number of films over the years, Preeti is currently playing a different role–that of an entrepreneur. Preeti and her husband and fellow actor Parvin Dabas are currently running a sports league. The actor couple sat down with Hindustan Times recently to talk about their careers, the changing face of cinema and their work together in the world of sports. Also read: Audience will get to see me on OTT very soon, says Preeti Jhangiani
Parvin and Preeti are promoters of the Pro Panja League, an arm-wrestling promotion based out of India. Talking about how they got involved in this unusual sport, Parvin says, “Indians are averse to bloodsport. But for the masses, I felt panja was something people understood and is simple. And we are emotionally connected to the sport. It has an Indian name and part of our history. Now, we are poised to take off in a big way this year.”
Preeti says that while initially ‘the core idea was Parvin’s, now it’s our baby’. In fact, she reveals that has always been into sports even before she ventured into acting. “In school and college, I was really into sports. I was the captain of my baseball team, which is not something we really play in India. I played a lot of throwball and I competed at the school-level in swimming. And now, I am really into panja too, as a spectator though,” she adds with a laugh.
Over the last few years, several actors have ventured into the world of sports. Be it Shah Rukh Khan or Preity Zinta buying IPL teams or Abhishek Bachchan purchasing a kabaddi team. One might assume that actors’ popularity makes it easier for them but Parvin says that often, the opposite is true. He argues, “It does open a few doors but initially it can be the opposite. People feel they have an idea but won’t be able to execute. That’s why we started without approaching anybody, on our own. It can very much go against us.”
After Mohabbatein’s success, Preeti acted in several films, including Awara Pagal Deewana (2002), Aan (2004), and Victoria No 203 (2007), working with everyone from Shah Rukh Khan to Akshay Kumar. But she has taken a hiatus of sorts over the last few years. Ask her if she is willing to return and she promptly replies, “I wouldn’t say acting ‘again’. I never just felt I was out of it or not connected. But yes, in terms of an actual role, definitely.” However, she does add a condition. She says, “The idea is to have an interesting role, something that excites me and warrants my time away from the Pro Panja League. It requires a lot of our attention but once an actor, always an actor. You cannot take the actor out of me.”
In Mohabbatein, Preeti played a simple, traditional girl and the actor does feel she was put in a mould both by filmmakers and the audiences after the film’s success. She says, “Initially, for sure, there was a certain image that the audience had of me and did not want me to get out of. I would say very initially only, there was a lot of typecasting as they put it.” However, she feels enough time has passed now and a different generation of filmmakers and cinegoers thinks differently now. “But the times have completely changed now, so I don’t think that’s an issue now. Every younger generation has new directors, new stories, new ideas. People’s mindsets have changed so much since the many years ago that my first film released,” she adds.
Parvin Dabas has featured in some memorable films like Monsoon Wedding, Khosla Ka Ghosla, and My Name Is Khan to name a few. And he has continued to work, having recently been seen in the Zee5 film State of Siege and shooting for Amazon Prime Video’s Made in Heaven 2. Talking about the experience of shooting amid the restrictions posed by the pandemic, he says, “You have to be flexible. You can’t think about how things should be. You have to think about how things are. To shoot the film I did in the US (Room), I had to quarantine for two weeks outside of India. By the end of it, it starts telling on your mental faculties. But you have to do it. And even on the set, like in Made in Heaven, they had a really elaborate process, which is good. It’s to keep everybody safe.”