Hers is truly a dream debut. After a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Slumdog Millionaire,Freida Pinto is on a high
Your debut film has won four Golden Globes. How does it feel?
Honestly,its just not sinking in. I hope someone doesnt tell me that I have been dreaming all this while. I feel blessed. Destiny had its plan for me. And it came in the form of a gift called Slumdog Millionaire. My present state of mind is I can’t believe it,its very unreal.
How did it all happen?
When the films casting and co-director Loveleen Tandon called me for an audition,my manager told me it was a Danny Boyle film. I had watched Dannys films like Trainspotting,The Beach and 28 Days Later and was his fan but couldnt understand why he was coming down to India. When Loveleen read the script,I was like,Wow! I started concentrating on my auditions as I badly wanted to be a part of it. I give 50 per cent of the credit to Loveleen for getting this project and the other 50 per cent to Danny .
Actually its 40-40 to them,20 per cent to me.
Did you always want to act?
Ever since I was a kid.
What were your thoughts before Slumdog
I have grown up watching an equal number of Bollywood and Hollywood films. But I always wanted to be part of meaningful films,whether they came from India,the US or the UK. After watching Charlize Therons performance in Monster some years back,I came out of the theatre all inspired and wanted even more to become an actor.
Were you intimidated when you first met Danny Boyle?
When I was waiting in the lobby of the hotel where the auditions were happening,I thought I wouldnt be able to perform at all in front of him or that I would get cold feet. But when my turn came and I rang the doorbell,Danny opened the door and said,Hello,Freida. Welcome to the audition. I couldnt believe it. He was so down-to-earth that all my nervousness vanished. Danny never makes you feel like hes one-up and youre one-down. He talks to you on a human-to-human level.
How was it working with Dev Patel?
We have got awesome chemistry in the film as we had a comfortable relationship on the sets. Dev and I came with the same kind of aspirations. We could relate to each other and that helped a lot. I first saw Dev at my second last audition,which was six months before I got the part. He was already selected by then and was part of the auditioning team. I told him I would love to show him my city,Mumbai. And he responded,I would love to see it. That was the first common chord we struck. I became his official tour guide. He enjoyed the city so much that he now says Aamchi Mumbai like a thoroughbred Mumbaikar.
And working with Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan?
I have always idolised them but have no scenes with them in the film. I would tell Dev that I envy him as he belongs to England and yet hes sharing scenes with all the big actors of IndiaIrrfan Khan,Saurabh Shukla and Anil Kapoor. But I learnt a lot by observing these seasoned actors perform on the sets.
How was it playing Latika in the film?
I may not have all of Latikas characteristics but her subtlety motivated me to give my best to the role. The challenge was to imbibe her subtlety and spirit.
How was it being at the Golden Globe Awards function?
It was a matter of great pride. I felt like an Indian girl walking down the red carpet and representing her country. The media was talking about the colour of the bangles I wore but what only mattered to me and gave me joy was that my family would be watching all this. When I was up on the stage,I saw all these celestial creaturesDrew Barrymore,Angelina Jolie,Brad Pitt,Leonardo DiCaprio et al. I was like,Wow! I also presented the Slumdog clip with Shah Rukh Khan,so I got to meet not only Hollywood A-listers but Bollywood biggies too.
Share the experience of rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood biggies there.
I kept pinching myself,wondering,Oh,my god! Did I just say hello to Angelina Jolie,did I just shake hands with Clint Eastwood,did Brad Pitt just say that he really loved the film? It was surreal,like a dream,and I was like Alice in wonderland. The most wonderful moment was when the film won the Best Film award. Everyone in the hall got up and started cheering for the film. This film is my first love.
How are you coping with things moving so fast?
I dont know. I observe Danny and the Slumdog team as I am very new to it. I dont need coffee or chocolate. My excitement gives me a high and keeps me going.
And your BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nomination for best supporting actress?
I have no words. I am honoured to be part of a category where you have actresses like Penelope Cruz and Amy Adams. But I cant understand whats happening. Its too early. So,I am taking it as BAFTAs compliment to me. My agent in the US says that Ill always be called BAFTA nominee,Freida Pinto.
A lot of Bollywood actresses might be envious of you now?
I dont know. I think its unfair to say so. Rather,theyd be happy for me. I have grown up watching Shabana Azmi and Tabu and admire Shahana Goswami and Nandita Das. These actors have inspired me to be what I am today. Hopefully,it will be a proud moment for them.
What are your plans for Bollywood?
I am open to any meaningful film.
Open to dancing around trees in Bollywood masala flicks?
I dont know yet. I did a little bit of song-and-dance in Slumdog You have to be fair to me,I have done a little bit of Bollywood in this film. So,I wont say no to anything. Afterall,DDLJ is my favourite film.
And Hollywood? Your website already has contacts of your agents in the US and the UK.
Well,they are the best people around in the business. They handle Penelope Cruz,Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg. I couldnt have asked for more. I am keeping my fingers crossed.