She’s the talk of show town. Eat your heart out Katrinas and Deepikas, she has wowed Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood and Sean Penn, no less. India’s great big hope for global stardom, after Slumdog Millionaire, the girl from Malad is keeping her head on her shoulders. Tan ta ra.. Freida Pinto floors Nikhil Taneja.
You’ve been living quite the dream.
(Lights up) I know! Trust me, even in my dreams, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d rub shoulders with Hollywood A-listers. You know, when Titanic had released, I had made a Leonardo DiCaprio scrapbook.. I’d pray to meet him in my dreams.<b1>
And then he was standing in front of me, telling me that he loved the film. I was dumbstruck. He’s such a friendly person.. very approachable and no airs. And of course, he’s handsome!
Who was the most chatty?
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were very sweet. Clint Eastwood and his wife said, “Let’s click a picture with you on our camera.” I mean, I’m a nobody and it was so sweet of them to give me that kind of warmth. I had very interesting conversations with Sean Penn because he has been there at every award function too and he’s just, “Wow.”
You know, they may be stars but they are also very real people. I spoke to Kate Beckinsale.. she told me she couldn’t come for the film’s premiere because of her kids. They have the same problems as us.
What was the best compliment you received?
Hillary Swank said the sweetest thing.. that I was one of the most beautiful girls she’d ever seen. I was so embarrassed! I just don’t believe that, because the world is filled with women more beautiful.
So you think you’ve been recognised by Hollywood?
I guess most of them have just recognised the fact that I’m raw talent.. and Danny Boyle has done the magic of conveying it in Slumdog Millionaire. When people call me Latika, I’m elated. I have only him to thank because he saw the soul and spirit of the character in me.
Didn’t you feel awkward acting opposite a much younger Dev Patel in the movie?
(Smiles) He may be an 18-year-old boy, but my spirit’s very young too. I keep calling myself a kid. When I watched Tanvi, who played the younger Latika in the movie, I was like, “This girl is so much more mature than I am! She carries herself with so much more grace.” And when you look at the posters.. Dev and I both look like kids, don’t we?
Yeah, you do. Did you help him with his accent? Even your Hindi’s not that good, right?
If the Hindi part is written for me, it gets much easier, yes. As for Dev, absolutely everyone helped him.. but we all said the words so differently that he would get confused! Mumbai doesn’t have a fixed accent.. you have to make your own. <b2>
What does he know about Bollywood? What about the mainstream Hollywood actors?
Dev knows everything.. from actors to directors. As for others, they are getting more educated about it now. In fact, when Ellen DeGenres called me on her show, I did a typical Bollywood dance for her.. it was fun, fun, fun. She loves the fact that we dance during every festival here. The only Bollywood film person they know of there is Aishwarya Rai.. she is very famous.
Jay Leno, Ellen DeGenres.. you’ve been giving interviews by galore. Is there anything you would really want someone to ask you?
You know, I have literally been asked everything. (Rolls eyes) Oh my god, I’m not even interesting any more! (Laughs) Umm.. yeah, no one’s asked me what I like eating.
So what do you like eating?
(Laughs) Aww.. that’s a good question now! I love sweets and I love crème rolls and for some reason, I’m absolutely craving them right now.
What is the question that you don’t want to be asked any more?
I guess when I’m asked that a particular person said this about the film and what is my reaction, I find it difficult to answer. Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion, you know.
You mean you are being asked about Amitabh Bachchan’s blog statements?
That’s obviously become a hot topic. It’s really funny how people make such a big hoo haa about one person’s opinion. I am no one to comment about that because he is the biggest badshah of Indian cinema.. I would be more than willing to work with Mr Bachchan some day. He knows what he is talking about, so everyone should leave it at that.
They ask your opinion because you are a celebrity now.
(Instantly) I’m not a celebrity.. I still feel like a very normal girl from Mumbai. (Giggles) Maybe I have to give up on my train commutes but I still love my auto rickshaws. When you sit in one and there’s air coming in from all sides, it’s so much better than air conditioning!
So nothing has changed at home in Malad?
(Laughs) The kids in my building are the cutest. They made these cards for me, with cut-outs of my pictures from newspapers, and a picture of a big red car saying that this should be my dream car.
And your family?
My family keeps me grounded. (Smiles) My mum never made a baby book for me but she’s making a scrapbook now.. which is funny. Otherwise things are very normal.. when I come home she still says, “Your things are lying around.. put them back in one place!”
You haven’t bought a new house for yourself?
(Chuckles) I have to wait for that moment to become more of a crorepati. (Laughs) Right now, I’m still a slumdog! But yeah, it’s a dream to have my parents move into a really nice, big house.
So what did you gift yourself when you won the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival?
(Smiles) There has been no time to celebrate formally. For me, celebration means being with the entire Slumdog team and watching everyone be so happy!
Okay.. you’ll be celebrating after the Oscars?
(Laughs) Am I going to the Oscars? I still don’t know.. until the nominations come out, I won’t jinx it by thinking of anything.
After winning the top awards at the Golden Globe, chances are pretty strong about nominations in even more categories.
It seems likely that we’ll get at least one nomination in a category.. but you can still never say. It’s an unpredictable world!
The Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed you. What kind of roles will they look for you?
I think they will definitely not forget the fact that I’m Indian but I’m sure they are not going to keep harping on that. They haven’t signed me as an Indian, but as an actor. I am not signing anything until the end of February though.
After the Oscars, you mean?
(Laughs) Again, that depends on whether I go to the Oscars. After February, I’ll go for a small vacation and then sign on anything, whether here or there.
You aren’t shifting base to Hollywood?
(Smiles) No, I have so much of Mumbai to soak in. I’ve often been misquoted that I’m waiting for my turn in Bollywood. That’s not true, I am open to doing meaningful cinema, even if it came from Afghanistan.. if there is a film industry there?
You could be the first truly crossover actress from India. You are probably the envy of all the actresses here.
They shouldn’t be envious.. they should be proud that they inspired a young girl to go out and achieve her dreams. I just feel blessed. (Laughs) I must have been a really good girl in my last birth.