She’s been the darling of the paparazzi for two years now, since Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008) made history at the Oscars. Now Freida Pinto admits that sometimes being in the spotlight can be quite traumatic. She recalls strolling down London’s Regent Street one evening when suddenly, photographers waiting for another celebrity, spotted and chased after her. "It was 6.30 pm. The flash from their cameras blinded me as I made my way through the traffic. An unnerving thought flashed through my mind – this was how Princess Diana was killed! I started hyperventilating! Then, I ducked into one of my favourite stores, Liberty of London, and the trail was lost," she reminisces.
The actor recently walked the red carpet at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa for the Asian premiere of the Woody Allen film, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Back home, the paparazzi frenzy was missing. "I hope it never comes to India," she says fervently. "For me, it was enough that the screening drew a full house."
But Pinto admits that it is discouraging when Indian audiences pull her down. "I guess, unlike AR Rahman and Anil Kapoor, who are seasoned veterans, they believe that Dev (Patel) and I got too much too soon. But it’s unfair not to root for young talent!" she protests, adding that at 26, she’s grown up enough not to retaliate through interviews or call press conferences to issue clarifications. "My friends wonder what happened to the little fighter but I’ve learnt that you don’t have to fight every battle."
It is speculated that Pinto’s found her tall, dark stranger in Dev Patel. However, she neither accepts nor denies the rumour. "I’m happy, but I’m not going to be forced into saying anything till I’m ready," she reasons.Besides, she says, the ‘tall, dark stranger’ is just a romantic ideal from Mills & Boon novels and The Wonder Years series which she’d watch as a teenager. "I’m no longer 16 and don’t want anything perfect. I prefer imperfections," she says, adding it would be perfect to do another film with Woody Allen. "This time I wouldn’t be so nervous!"
As far as Bollywood goes, Pinto isn’t interested in our run-around-the-tree romances. "I enjoy them, and have been called a drama queen for years. But I can’t see myself going over-the-top on screen," she smiles. "But like in Hollywood, Bollywood too today has two different kinds of cinema. I saw Luck By Chance (2009) on a flight to India and loved it." Zoya Akhtar’s film, she believes, mirrors her natural style of acting. "I’d love to do an Indian film with an Indian director, maybe a Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge made by an Anurag Kashyap!" she laughs.
But for now, Pinto is excited about Black Gold, a period film set in the 1930s, about Arab rivalry and the discovery of oil. It’s being shot in Tunisia, directed by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud of Seven Years In Tibet fame, and co-stars Antonio Banderas. She says, "I play an Arab princess. After the de-glam Miral, it’ll be fun to doll up in vintage costumes."