MUMBAI: Preity Zinta didn’t know a word of Punjabi when she signed Heaven On Earth, a Deepa Mehta film that was to be shot entirely in Punjabi.

But Preity did manage to learn the language in a short span of 50 days. “You could call it a crash course,” she says. “But I only mastered the dialogues that I was required to mouth in the film. Heaven On Earth wasn’t a film about faking emotions. I had to deliver my dialogue and feel the emotions,” she adds.

Language wasn’t the only research area for Preity for Heaven On Earth. She read a lot of material and sat through documentaries on domestic violence.

Being seriously involved in a subject of such a violent nature took its toll on Preity. She was severely traumatised by the experience of playing a battered wife. In the film, she is repeatedly smacked by her on-screen husband (Vansh Bhardwaj).

Many times, Preity ended up raising her fist to retaliate, much to the annoyance and amusement of the director and her co-star. Recalling the experience, Preity says, “It was extremely difficult for me to take on the violence. I’m the kind of girl who would immediately hit back. If you slap me once, I’ll slap you twice.” Preity was allowed no make-up in the film. “No wigs either,” she says. “Deepa made me wear hair extensions that were naturally woven into my hair to give me the perfect Punjabi look. If I arrived to the sets after a good night’s sleep, they applied black make-up around my eyes to give me a troubled look.”