Zinta next acted in two Telugu films, Premante Idera (1998), opposite Venkatesh; and Raja Kumarudu (1999), opposite Mahesh Babu. She followed with the leading role alongside Akshay Kumar in Sangharsh, a thriller directed by Tanuja Chandra and written by Mahesh Bhatt. Zinta portrayed the character of Reet Oberoi, a CBI officer who falls in love with a captured killer played by Kumar. Having been impressed with Zinta's work in Dil Se, Chandra approached her for the part after several leading actresses had refused the offer, which Zinta viewed as an opportunity to expand her range. Sangharsh was not a box office success, although Zinta's performance received favourable comments by critics. An article published by The Tribune upon the film's release described her performance as "an amazing act" in an "intense film", documenting her career path thus far with the observation, "She wowed the audiences with her cameo in Dil Se, then she zapped the viewers with her sensuality in Soldier and now Preity Zinta is all set to shock everybody with her stark performance [in Sangharsh]. "