Freida Pinto is often judged as a brown-skinned exotic girl who flaunts her skin colour to get roles in Hollywood. Sometimes as an Indian actress whose name helps her get work with the likes of Woody Allen and Terrence Lewis. But the Manglorean Catholic girl has proved that she can’t be bound by brackets. In India recently as the ambassador of Girl Rising Campaign, Freida says she never like to play a traditional Indian girl with ‘teeka’ and bangles in a Hollywood film to further a stereotype. “The script has to have a solid justification like it was in Trishna,” says the dusky model who emerged on the scene with Slumdog Millionaire. “In Indian society family honour is usually associated only with a girl. This attitude has to change.”
Excerpts from an interview:
Slumdog Millionaire was a kind of stepping stone which every newcomer wish to have…
The struggle for life happened after Slumdog Millionaire. Before that, I was like ‘will I get the chance to do what I really want to do?’ With Slumdog I started from the top. But on the other hand, I soon realised the fall from the top is most painful.
So, what did you do to sustain yourself in the top rung?
In order to avoid that fall, I had to work hard to find projects which were equally challenging. I didn’t choose commercial projects which I could have, instead I did smaller films with rich content like ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.’
How was it working with Woody Allen?
It was great working with him. I was to play the character of a girl who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. It’s something which we all experience in our lives at some point of time.
Do you feel that there has been an inequality between men and women in Bollywood and Hollywood?
Yes, there has been an inequality between the men and women in the film industry in both Hollywood and Bollywood. However this trend is changing now. The inequality was there for years. It’s not a new thing. But now people are showing interest in women centric-stories and women could be seen not only in front of the screen but also behind it.
It means you believe that the status of women is rising in the film industry
Yes, women have now become part of the work force, which was not the case earlier. But the change is not happening at a fast pace. Patience is the key, I believe. Yes, the male dominance still exists, but the people are now realizing the female point of view. Audience is showing interest in women centric films and producers and directors are taking risks to tell such stories.
Tell us about your experience and inspirations while working for the cause of the girl child.
There are so many girls who are inspirational. Actually, I would like to share one of the most inspirational things for me that happened during my trip to Sierra Leone. I found some boys who came forward to voice their concerns for their sisters. As they must be aware of it that they are in a privileged position because they are not going to be a target for practices like FGM (female genital mutilation) or to be married off in the way girls are. But their awareness helped to put the message across to the wider community. It’s important that boys grow up respecting and caring their mothers and sisters in a positive way.
Angelina Jolie always inspires me for she always finds time for good causes no matter how busy she is. People like her and Malala are hugely inspirational.
How do you see the role of celebrities in raising voice for humanitarian causes?
Well, it is good if people from Bollywood or Hollywood come forward for good causes but at the same time it is not compulsory. It would be unfair is somebody comes out of compulsion or some other interests because they need to be role models. Also lot of people might not feel comfortable addressing crowds and prefer to do humanitarian work from behind closed doors. But those who can, I think can be very impactful.
As you are Indian by origin do you ever think to play a role of Indian woman in films?
I never thought of presenting myself in any particular way. I don’t like to present myself as an Indian girl who wears a saree and a ‘bindi’ and is waiting to get married in America. I want to present myself as a strong global woman. One who grew up respecting all cultures and is willing to embrace any culture, which, I feel, goes with my belief.
And what’s the reason behind it?
I have never given out a message that suggests that I am looking for a stereotypical Indian role.
But Hollywood does try to stereotype Indian characters?
Hollywood is not easy for an outsider. There are some preconceived notions like, ‘if she is a beautiful brown-skinned exotic girl, she will play only those kinds of roles’. This is something that I have to fight every day.
So how has been your journey of Hollywood?
Well, it was actually tough that people have accepted me the way I am. I am grateful to all the people who accepted me. Those who think I lead a very glamorous life are unaware of my struggle behind trying to make it easier for Indians to be accepted in Hollywood.
Has Hollywood ever tried to re-mould you beliefs?
I’m a strong person. In that sense, I haven’t had to compromise in any way. So far I haven’t experienced it and I hope I will not experience it. It’s not that difficult to say no when you don’t want to do something.
Coming to personal life, Freida, few days back, rumours flew about your breakup with Dev (her co-star in Slumdog Millionaire) when you stepped out with Sid (Siddharth) Mallya for your birthday celebrations in Los Angeles this October. How much truth is there?
Dev and I are still very much together. Dev and I are soul mates, nothing can change this fact. Sid was there in LA (Los Angeles) on my birthday and we are part of the same circle of friends. All such stories were planted by the Indian media only. The reports carried by the international media mentioned that I was drunk, which is fine as one can have fun on his or her day.
You rarely talk about your personal life. What’s the reason behind it?
I don’t like discussing my personal life. If you keep discussing your personal life out there, at some point, you will be so empty and hollow. I feel that there’s a great need to protect one’s life. I haven’t spoken about my personal life ever. Even Dev and I never spoke that ‘we are dating.’ The media always tried to get things out of us. Dev and I were always like ‘we like this game, let them keep guessing.’
What do you do in your spare time?
I always find lots of peace during yoga and meditation. I love to read books. I learnt to swim. Basically, I love to rest and find peace in my spare time.