Good roles, any day

Back in town

Talented Freida Pinto

She may be a Mangalorean Catholic born and raised in a Mumbai suburb, but her karmabhoomi has always been America, where she lives now. A full decade after her debut in the British film Slumdog Millionaire, Freida Pinto comes home to shoot and also promote Love Sonia, a co-production by David Womark and Indian-origin US director Tabrez Noorani, and admits that if she is offered more projects of substance, she might keep returning. Acting in amateur plays, modelling and working as a television presenter in Mumbai was Freida’s “past”. But then she gave her audition for her 2008 debut film, and the rest is history.

Not preachy

“While Slumdog… was being shot in 2007, he called me over and told me the story he was researching, and it was deeply disturbing and moving. In the film, we had to be as authentic as possible, complete with costumes that were bought from shops where the girls in red-light areas of Mumbai bought their clothes,” says Freida, who plays Rashmi, a sex worker.

Freida declares that she was blessed that she had powerful co-actors like Manoj Bajpayee and Richa Chadha.

“If I was working in India, I would have loved to have a career like Richa’s.”

Terming protagonist Mrunal Thakur as “beyond phenomenal,” she confesses that she was never as confident as Mrunal is today, at the time of her own debut.

Stating that they are not preaching in Love Sonia, she says that the film presents a real problem and that it is up to the country to find a solution. “We are not standing out there and saying ‘You should do something.’ We leave it to your intelligence to judge things. I don’t want to give you the word ‘dark’ because I want everyone to accept this film with an open mind. The most important message this film gives is of hope. Why should one watch a film and then go home depressed?”

How does it feel being an Indian actor in Hollywood? Sometime back, Freida had admitted to being “lost” after Slumdog Millionaire happened. “I felt lost because there was too much coming up,” she corrects us. “Right after that, I did eight films in three years, something unheard of for an actor breaking out in the West. And I thought, ‘Where’s my voice in this?’ Was I accepting everything that was coming my way? So that was the ‘lost’ feeling. Technically, on paper, I should have been the happiest, but I realised that I was not doing what I wanted to do, but only what was coming my way.”

The solution for Freida was a break for 30 months, and that afforded her a sense of what she actually wished to do. “I will be 34 next month. I feel I am the happiest today, and I don’t feel lost now,” she smiles.

“Today, the perception has changed, not just towards Indian skin. Filmmakers from our part of the country are accepted as storytellers. Netflix and Amazon have helped in these times. Sacred Games has been watched widely even by my white friends.”

Going places

Even about Indian movies at international film festivals, perceptions are changing and myths are being busted. Her character in Love Sonia has been appreciated for boldness, and she is amused that Americans tell her they never knew Indians could abuse so much. Another myth was that Indians do not get intimate, or are averse to sex. “So, I told them, ‘We may be conservative, but 1.2 billion people cannot be there without sex,’” she laughs.

‘‘Today, people know that we are not just about masala films. Now, Indian filmmakers can come in and narrate stories even about Americans or Japanese.”

Would she have been happier if she had been an actor in India? “My career never started here, so I cannot answer that question,” she says. “But yes, I am extremely satisfied with what I am doing there. I am producing several films, including documentaries, and have done the fabulous British serial Guerrilla about Indians there. In between my films, I also delve deep into social activism, so I guess I am not missing anything.”

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Good roles, any day

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