FANCY A DATE WITH FREIDA?
WHAT COULD A CHAP DO TO CATCH FREIDA PINTO’S ATTENTION? AND WHAT ARE HER BIGGEST DATING DEAL-BREAKERS? INDIA’S TOP CROSSOVER ACTRESS GETS CHATTY
T HE BAR is black and white and dramatically lit. In dazzling red, she blossoms like a blood rose under a spotlight. She wears drama like a sheath, but can shed it at will. Freida Pinto. Once a model from Malad in Mumbai, she is now an a complished actor with a home in Los Angeles, several movies under her belt and more exciting projects underway. First finding fame playing Latika in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog-Millionaire in 2008, Pinto has since worked with filmmakers Terrence Malick and Woody Allen, and actors Cate Blanchett, Antonio Banderas and Christian Bale. In 2018, we’ll see her in the latest version of The Jungle
Book, playing Messua, the woman who adopts Mowgli when he enters the Man Village, along with a highcalibre cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan and Christian Bale as Bagheera.
But there was never any particular moment when Freida Pinto felt that she’d arrived.
“You see, I came from this really small film that unexpectedly blew up. How it was going to go straight to DVD is a story that the whole world knows,” says Pinto. “But we got picked up at the Toronto Film Festival and suddenly things changed. For the whole of the first year after Slumdog... and the press that came after that, there was no concept of what to expect and what not to expect. It was a beautiful thing to stay in the moment. In that first year, I presented at pretty much every award ceremony, was on the cover of so many magazines. All of that can be seen as having arrived. But longevity is really what you have to maintain and sustain. Eight-anda-half years in the industry, I’m still working, still doing quality projects, have great industry friends, that’s enough for me.”
Chatting with Brunch at an event organised by USL-Diageo’s #LoveScotch, she says, “Working abroad means having to be very flexible. It’s an aggravating process when the only things you get are characters that are stereotypical. So instead of letting anger rule, it’s about going, ‘Okay, I need to take this calmly and find another way around it’. It’s one thing to go there and say, ‘Hey, I’m Indian… give me the roles that the white people play’. It’s another thing to say, ‘Hey listen, I know what you see is an Indian person in front of you, but if you give me the chance, I can show you what else I can do’. You can’t go in there with attitude and arrogance. You have to have humility and help them change the way they look at things.”
It’s a long way from the days when her body image as a model was constantly challenged. But was it hard for her to feel accepted in the US and UK when she faced such attitudes in her own country? “It’s a very interesting concept about being accepted by others as opposed to your own self-confidence letting you feel this is who you are,” says Pinto. “I am certainly much more comfortable with myself now, at the age of 32. I really don’t crave external validation as much as I did when I was younger and more naive. Now I’m internally content. I’m proud of what I’m putting out there, be it my brand associations, films or television roles.”
She sips and savours her Scotch, stylish and self-assured. The men in the room are drawn to her like moths to a flame. They know she’s not dating her former co-star Dev Patel now and hope that the investment banker beau is just a myth. Her poise doesn’t slip even as she politely smiles them away.
But she shares what works for her and what clearly doesn’t. “I can’t stand men who pretend to be someone they are not. Also, smell is superimportant to me. Be warned, I can tell if it’s a yes or no for me from a distance!”
When asked to describe herself, she says, “How do I see myself ? The best thing I’ve learnt is that I’m ever-evolving, ever-changing, ever so curious.”
“I can’t stand men who pretend to be someone they are not.... Be warned, I can tell if it’s a yes or no for me from a distance..”
Like other millennials, Freida balances fun with intensity and passionate causes. She speaks up against issues that strike her as support-worthy. Recently, she’s started working on the formidable advisory board of non-profit production company We Do It Together that was founded by Italian filmmaker Chiara Tilesi.
She explains their goals, “We want to shift the cultural paradigm where women can only be hot sexy babes, where women can only play mothers once they reach the age of 40 or 42, or if you come from a land that is exotic in some producer’s head, then you end up playing only exotic roles. We want to break such stereotypes,” she says. “Working hard on the international platform for quite some time gave me the access to people from my fraternity. The concept is about getting men and women to come together to solve this problem of female representation in television, in movies, pop culture and media.”
How do they plan to make this happen? “We need to empower not just the actors in front of the camera but also those behind the camera. We want access to the best of the best that the male directors, producers and writers already have access to,” she says. “We’ve launched as a non-profit fund – and it’s NOT a charity. We aim to tell our stories of strong female characters in all walks of life, whether it’s comedy or action or drama. We have access to funds from different parts of the world, from governments, private investors, brands and individuals who want to make a donation. In return, they get a tax write-off and credit for doing something good. It’s a win-win for all. Is it going to take a village to do this? “Absolutely, yes. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a 15-year to lifelong commitment.”
THE URBAN NOMAD
That’s a big commitment for someone who calls herself the ‘urban nomad’! With such a global outlook, where exactly does she feel most at home? “I feel at home everywhere, but definitely in Mumbai, because this is where I grew up. When I come here with someone who hasn’t been to the city before, I feel this immense sense of pride no matter how polluted, crowded or uncivilised it can be. I love the people. The kindness, the warmth, the hospitality you get here, I don’t find that in LA. But honestly, when I’m at peace with myself, I can find home anywhere.”
Make-up and hair: Rosario De Monte and Gabriel Georgiou Freida Pinto is wearing a Michelle Mason dress and Rupert Sanderson shoes