Stereotyping a lesser evil in Indian cinema: Freida Pinto (Interview)

New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) Who says Indian cinema is about stereotypes? Mumbai girl Freida Pinto, who left a lasting impression on the international arena with “Slumdog Millionaire”, says she faces more stereotypical roles abroad. Battling them means making the right choices at the right time.

“Abroad, there is already a stereotype in your face (looks), and then there are stereotypes that silently exist in cinema. So far, we have been accepting – okay, kar lenge (we’ll do it). But I feel besides, maybe, the big budget films, I have never really had to be objectified for films,” Freida told IANS during a recent visit to the capital.

The dusky beauty made a well-timed shift from the world of modelling to acting with a meaty role of Latika in Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning marvel “Slumdog Millionaire”.

She went on to make headway into Hollywood’s glitzy red carpet events and managed to carve a niche through subsequent projects with filmmakers of the likes of Woody Allen, Julian Schnabel and Tarsem Singh.

Having starred in films like “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, “Miral”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Immortals”, Freida managed to break the mould and the stereotype of an Indian in a foreign movie.

But it is sometimes okay to give in to stereotypes – like she did to play a virgin oracle in Tarsem Singh’s “Immortals”.

“It was a typical film, and I knew what I was getting into. I loved the film ‘300’, and it was with the producers of the same movie. I knew I would get the experience of working on a big-budget film, which was going to be made in 3D, and of working with a director like Tarsem, who is phenomenal.

“I wouldn’t get that chance if I would simply say no to a project because I was afraid of the unsaid, silent stereotype,” said Freida.

As she continues to battle the stereotypes in Hollywood and pick the right options for herself, Freida is fairly clear about the films she would enjoy choosing on Indian turf.

“I feel the stereotypes here would be fewer for me. They definitely exist in Indian cinema – such as the typical Indian male, or the drunk guy…women in cinema are also objectified. But the sensibility of films that I feel closest to have always been female-driven and the female-empowerment kind of roles.

Movies like “Mirch Masala”, “Arth” and “Mandi” are more like her pick and she is “glad” that filmmakers who make those kind of projects are currently on the rise here.

She particularly mentioned Vidya Balan-starrer “Kahaani” as a “good example” of a “female-driven film where the woman wasn’t objectified, and her strength was actually glorified and celebrated”.

“So, yes, in India stereotyping is a lesser evil for me when I am so selective about my films,” said the 28-year-old, who has already signed her first Bollywood film “NH10” opposite Rajkumar Yadav.

All in all, it is about sticking out of the crowd for Freida.

“I think with this token of being a different ethnic looking person, I already stick out (in Hollywood). The next thing on my list then is to pick roles which also stick out,” she said.

That’s not always possible, she said, adding: “When you do an ensemble piece or a big blockbuster film, sometimes you will get a character that not necessarily sticks out.

“But the point is that the effort to find good projects and roles has to constantly be made because as soon as you stop making the effort and start going into oblivion, people start forgetting about you. Then it becomes harder to re-establish yourself from scratch,” she said.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])

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