Hollywood’s ‘exotic Indian beauty’ Freida Pinto talks about the challenges while shooting for her latest release, Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna
Freida Pinto, who became an overnight celebrity after the multiple-Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, views her new film Trishna as a “very beautiful and yet tragic” tale of a village girl torn between her traditional upbringing and the dreams of a girl from modern India. Based on Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the d’Urbervilles, British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom’s newest film is set in rural Rajasthan. It has Pinto playing the title role of Trishna, an auto-rickshaw driver’s daughter who falls for a rich boy.
“I guess the journey is very beautiful and at the same time very tragic,” she says, “because it goes from being really innocent to being in a situation of almost desperation and finally to redemption. “It’s quite an intense journey for one girl to go through,” said Pinto over phone from New York, where she arrived for the red carpet premiere of the film at the IFC Centre in Manhattan earlier last week.
She felt Trishna was a tough role to play “because it’s so different from what I am in real life.” Pinto has a very outspoken personality and “just can’t kind of lay back and just get bombarded with things that I don’t believe in”. So I guess that was really hard for me, especially because we didn’t really have a solid script,” she said. “Every time, I would try to say something or speak out against something, Michael would just say, ‘No, you don’t say anything in this situation. Just observe’. Now as an actor who is very outspoken, it was very tough and again such a welcome challenge,” said Pinto, who “would love to be something like that again,” she added.
To prepare for her role, Freida spent some time in Rajasthan’s Osian village in a family setting and interviewed a number of girls who worked at hotels and one who worked as ground staff in an airline. “It was very interesting that all the stories were different from the other, but the bottom line came down to ‘whatever dad thinks is probably right and we’ll just follow that or whatever our future husband thinks is right is going to be our life from then on’. And that for me was the startling reality that I had to just come to terms with to understand my character better,” Pinto said.
Pinto, who came to limelight with her very first film, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, considers both Boyle and Winterbottom as “absolutely amazing filmmakers” with definitely different working styles. For one Slumdog… and Trishna are “very completely different films”, Pinto said. “Slumdog… is a love story that has a beautiful message of hope at the end of it. And the other one is a tragic love story which can be very sad.”
Also, while she had a detailed script for Slumdog Millionaire, “as far as Trishna went, all the experience I had gathered was going to be put to the test with Michael because we did not have a solid script and I had to really let go if I had any kind of inhibitions.”
Pinto thinks her co-star Anurag Kashyap, who has made a mark for himself in Indian cinema as a brilliant director, is a “really good” actor too. “I think, yeah, if he gives acting a shot, he will be pretty good.” She hopes some day she’ll get a chance to work with Kashyap “because he is such an eclectic filmmaker, who is not afraid to take challenges upon himself and is so brave”.
Asked if she feared being typed as an ‘exotic Indian beauty’ by Hollywood, Pinto said, “I am not afraid of that any more because I have made sure people don’t look at me like that.”
And does Bollywood have anything to offer her? “Well, when people use the term ‘Bollywood’, I hope they are including Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and all these wonderful filmmakers as well because definitely I would love to work with them,” said Pinto, adding: “Why not?”
Although she lives in Los Angeles these days for convenience’s sake, Mumbai will always be number one for Pinto because “it has made me the person I am today – very outspoken”. “Oh, my god, there is no comparison. Mumbai is Mumbai,” she signs off.