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Birthday special: Why Preity Zinta owes her career to chocolate

As the actress turns 42 today (31 January), we take a look at how a chocolate ad helped Zinta get a foothold in Hindi cinema.

Mayur Lookhar

There are few ways to enter Hindi film industry. The easiest is to be a star son or daughter. Or, you take up modelling and hope some producer or director spots you and gives you the big break. Beauty pageant winners too gain an entry. In 1996, a 21-year old girl from Shimla was at a friend’s birthday party where she bumped into a director. Impressed by her looks, he requested her to come for an audition. She successfully cleared it and was offered the lead role in an advertisement for chocolate (Cadbury Perk)

That girl was Preity Zinta who turns 42 today (31 January). Only a week earlier, Cinestaan.com bumped into Zinta. The actress was shooting for a cosmetic product and vowed to be seen in films more often.

Fondly remembering the Perk advertisement, Zinta said, "My good friend Sonal Dabral (ad guru), had written that ad. He called me up and said listen, 'I've written this ad for a commercial for Perk (chocolate). You are my inspiration. I thought of you when I wrote it. I really want you to come and audition for it. I was a bit apprehensive as I was among those who felt that girls from good families don't do things like this. However, Dabral assured me that it was a very simple and a decent ad."

While Zinta was Dabral’s inspiration, shooting for the ad was no cakewalk for her.

"Finally, I went for the audition. I thought I was this one only amazing person that is going to audition for it, only to find out that were 500 girls in the line. I was the 501st girl. It was amazing. I waited all day, I think it was at Famous Studio. I was the last one to audition for it,  and by then I’d eaten so much. They used to have misal pav and all. They asked me to eat that chocolate and I said I can’t eat it. They said I look really happy while eating and that was it. I think it was a big turning point in my life," Zinta added.

A young Zinta had also bagged another popular soap advertisement which helped her get into the limelight.

A year later, Zinta tagged along with a friend who was going for an audition. She was spotted by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who asked her to audition too and finalised her for his film Tara Rum Pum Pum, opposite Rakesh Roshan’s son Hrithik. Unfortunately, that project failed to take off, but Kapur recommended her to director Mani Ratnam for a cameo role in Dil Se... (1998). Zinta signed two other films shortly — Soldier (1998) and Kya Kehna (2000). Both were delayed, making Dil Se... her first release. Her 20-minute role earned her a Filmfare nomination for Best Supporting Actress. 

When this reporter gave Zinta a Perk to bite into nostalgia, she simply gave it away to a little fan.

Here's the Cadbury Perk ad to revive your memories.