LIFE AFTER SLUMDOG
This stunning beauty uses her fame and success to voice her opinions and that’s what she does in her new miniseries, Guerilla
Freida Pinto on standing her ground to make a difference
Freida Pinto has carved a name for herself as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. She proudly stands up for what she feels is right and is not afraid to voice her opinions on things that matter to her.
A campaigner, feminist and supporter of human rights causes, it’s no wonder Freida, who celebrates her 32nd birthday this month, was drawn to team up with Idris Elba in the new TV miniseries, Guerilla. Starring alongside Idris, Freida plays Jas Mitra, an activist in 1970s London, hell-bent on freeing a political prisoner by any means necessary.
The big-budget TV show is a return to the limelight for Freida who, since Slumdog and her real-life relationship with co-star Dev Patel (they have since parted ways), has mainly been concentrating on meaningful independent projects in between her campaigning.
Now based in LA, the star from Mumbai talks about her Slumdog days and what she’s passionate about.
You took part in the the Women’s March. Why was the march important to you?
To protect those whose rights have been massively threatened at this point in time. Women definitely come under that threat quite a lot, so whether it comes to identity or protecting women’s rights, I’m absolutely going to be in the forefront. I have not experienced a complete violation of my rights, but other people are being affected by it. I’m part of it, I am being affected by it. If I don’t get involved directly, sooner or later it’s going to affect the entire race.
How did you relate to Guerilla’s Jas Mitra? What were some parts of her that you felt were in you?
Well, the passion for sure. I have always been very outspoken, and I am really so happy that someone like [ Guerilla director] John Ridley recognised my passion in my first meeting with him. From the time I was little, I don't think there was ever a time where I never protested against something that I didn’t feel was right. I say that there’s no space for neutrality in today’s world. You can’t be sitting on the fence.
By speaking out, have you or your career been affected?
If I can take it in the most constructive and positive way, I think it’s making people take me more seriously, because I’m not one who says
something and doesn’t believe it or stand by it. Much like Jas, I have my convictions. I will be humble if there’s something wrong that I’ve said or done; I hope I will have the courage to say, “I’m sorry, that was wrong.”
Guerilla was set in the ’70s. What did you know had taken place during that time?
This is a very interesting question. As soon as I learned about this TV show, the first thing I did was contact family members and friends who lived in England and who were of the age where they would know what actually happened in 1971 England. You’d be surprised how little they knew about this movement. When I realised this is not going to be enough, I immediately asked John if there were books that I could read, if there were transcripts, materials, movies, documentaries, anything that I could do to get a better understanding of what was happening. There was very much a lack of information that existed, which is why I’m even more excited to be a part of this show, because I finally get to tell the untold story, a story that needs to be told.
As it progresses, Jas and Marcus’ motivations change in the sense of what they hope to accomplish – in terms of going from reaching people to expressing rage, or do they think all the way through that they will accomplish something other than making their own feelings clear?
I believe whenever you make a decision to do something radical or unexpected, there are consequences; and those consequences lead you to either stand up with conviction with what you’ve done and believe in it and then continue on that path, which means there will be further consequences. Or you just back out and say, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry. I surrender. I give in.”
But Jas and Marcus are not that sort of people. They stand up very firmly for what they believe in, which eventually takes them down a path where, in a way, they stop. Jas’ character finds herself in a bit of a trap where, by the time I reach episode 5, I am very lost for words for what it is that Jas is doing. But she have a deep conviction that she needs to continue doing this, come what may, which then leads to rage and violence. This has been a big debate, whether rage and violence is an ultimate consequence of achieving change.
Have you ever felt racism in your childhood?
I’ve never really faced any direct segregation, but I do come from a very vast country where different parts of the population are still considered a minority within the country.
I grew up in a multicultural school where we had children coming from different parts of India. People from northeast India often felt like they were treated like immigrants, even though they were very much part of the same country – that was something I was really aware of. And then later I see that this takes place even in America, in England, and other parts of the world, where you can you feel like you belong, but at the same time, there are others that don’t feel the same.
I didn’t experience racism personally but to me, the privilege of being an actor is actually to be able to tell these stories and sink your teeth into another person’s life and character, and step into their shoes, which I so enjoy.
How has Slumdog Millionaire changed your life?
In many ways it actually gave my voice a platform. I have to say, my most inspirational moment at the Golden Globes was to watch a woman [Meryl Streep] of true substance, a woman of elegance and dignity, stand up on stage and use her influence in the most responsible way possible.
And you want to do that?
I’ve always been doing that, but to see Meryl do that makes me want me to do it more, and I want to do it with the same grace and dignity she has displayed.
How have you managed to stay grounded?
I’m really, really lucky to have a very grounded set of friends and I’ve never been a party girl. I don’t go to Hollywood parties just for the sake of going to them. I go when I know I can really enjoy myself among good company, and I have friends to celebrate with.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
None actually. I’m really happy that she made all the mistakes she did, and she went through what she did because I wouldn’t be here if I was constantly told to do everything in a certain way – because that’s the “right” way. I needed to be left to have my own free will at times to make some mistakes.
Mistakes are important as long as they’re not really loud, pronounced mistakes that people make and get away with. I’m really glad for the mistakes that I’ve made, and I’m glad that I’ve made them in a safe place where I could be taught and given the right advice to grow.