Freida Pinto on the power of re­veal­ing your truth.

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents - Freida Pinto was a guest of the Veuve Clic­quot New Gen­er­a­tion Award 2018

“Peo­ple think life changes overnight when you be­come fa­mous. That’s not quite true. It’s more grad­ual than that, but life def­i­nitely changes. Peo­ple recog­nise you in the street. You get in­vited to fancy par­ties. And you get of­fered more films.

You’d think that be­ing part of a film like Slum­dog [which won Os­cars for best pic­ture, di­rec­tor and adapted screen­play, among oth­ers, in 2009] would put me in this amaz­ing po­si­tion – ev­ery­thing would be handed to me on a plat­ter. Wrong! I started at the top, but I had zero ex­pe­ri­ence, zero con­tacts. I knew noth­ing about the film in­dus­try. Be­fore Slum­dog, I was a model and a travel TV host. Af­ter Slum­dog, I was get­ting film of­fers al­most daily. They weren’t the roles I wanted, but I felt like I should take them. So I played the girl­friend, the sci­en­tist who runs ev­ery­where in heels. It didn’t feel like me, but I did it any­way.

Af­ter a few years, I re­alised I needed to start stand­ing up for my­self. I turned down scripts where I was “the god­dess” or “the pu­ri­tan woman” or “the or­a­cle priest­ess”. Give me a break. I wasn’t go­ing to do that again. These roles aren’t com­plex. Women are not de­fined by a sin­gle char­ac­ter­is­tic – be­ing a mother or be­ing a vir­gin. No. I told them to write the char­ac­ter the way they’d write a man or I wouldn’t do it.

I thought I’d have to turn down two or three scripts. In the end, I lost count – it was script af­ter script af­ter script for about a year. Peo­ple stopped call­ing. Cast­ing direc­tors thought I was try­ing to tank my ca­reer on pur­pose. So I took a break. I didn’t act for three years. I joined a com­pany [We Do It To­gether] that funds fe­male-led films and fe­male film­mak­ers, and I asked pro­ducer friends to men­tor me. When I learnt more about pro­duc­ing, I re­alised what I needed to do to start act­ing again: tell my own story. I went back to cast­ing agents and told them my truth. I was job­less. I’d been un­em­ployed for years, and I was ready to work. I re­alised that my hon­esty – and vul­ner­a­bil­ity – was ac­tu­ally a strength. I wasn’t go­ing to say, “Oh, it’ll be hard for me to squeeze in a meet­ing with you be­cause I have six other scripts to read” when, re­ally, I had noth­ing to do. My think­ing was: I can lie to them and still lose the role, or I can tell the truth and at least get their re­spect, even if I don’t get the job. And what hap­pened was that my hon­esty com­pletely baf­fled peo­ple. They re­alised very quickly that I was bar­ing my heart, and they knew that I had no other agenda than the one I’d just told them. It worked; I started get­ting the roles I had al­ways wanted.

Women have a ten­dency to put on a brave face and act like ev­ery­thing is all right, but ac­tu­ally I think that open­ing up and be­ing vul­ner­a­ble can be a huge strength. Let me be clear: I don’t mean vic­tim­hood – play­ing up your ob­sta­cles to make them seem harder than they are, or wal­low­ing in them. I mean telling the truth about your ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s so much bet­ter to lay bare your truth peace­fully than to rage and boil and lose your mind over some­thing. Anger never gets you very far.

I see a lot of anger now with #Me­too and it’s un­der­stand­able. Sex­ual as­sault is a stain on our in­dus­try and our so­ci­ety at large. What I hope hap­pens now is that we let go of our anger and use our vul­ner­a­bil­ity to make last­ing change. Now is the time to talk. With each other, but with men, too. And, most im­por­tantly, to lit­tle boys and girls. Be­cause this prob­lem is big­ger than Hol­ly­wood – it’s ev­ery­where. We need to start at the bot­tom. We need to teach kids to have em­pa­thy for one an­other and for them­selves. That it’s okay for boys and girls to cry. And that it’s fair that boys and girls take on equal amounts of work. I’ve learnt that anger – even if it’s jus­ti­fied – can­not be sus­tained, and it doesn’t lead to re­sults.

Ul­ti­mately, my goal is the same as ev­ery other woman’s: to have con­trol over my nar­ra­tive. I want peo­ple to see me as some­one who is com­plex, who has many sides, good and bad. I was made out to be the most beau­ti­ful girl that Ja­mal [played by Dev Pa­tel] had ever laid his eyes on [in Slum­dog]; this per­fect per­son who never did any­thing wrong. But that is not my story. Now, when­ever I see a script, I ask my­self, “What’s the con­flict here? What is it that makes us ques­tion her in­ten­tions?” If I don’t have an an­swer, then I’m not in­ter­ested.

” Some­times say­ing “No” is the best way to take con­trol.

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