Indian actress Freida Pinto is making waves internationally for her walk down the Oscar red carpet, her designer gowns and gracing the covers of popular magazines, thanks to Slumdog Millionaire. But not many know the woman who helped groom her and introduced her to British director Danny Boyle.
Sushma Puri, a grooming instructor and owner of Elite Model Management India in New Delhi and Mumbai, groomed and launched Freida when she began her career in modelling in 2005. Freida's photograph was among those of a few others that Puri had sent to Loveleen Tandon, the casting director of Slumdog Millionaire. And now she just can't stop praising here protege.
"My agency has worked very closely with the casting team of Slumdog Millionaire. We received a call from Loveleen Tandon's office when they were casting for the movie.
"We sent pictures of some of the girls who fit the brief. Freida was immediately put on the short list. She went on to audition for the part. Over the next six months, we were asked to send Freida many times over for various screen tests. Finally, Boyle personally selected her for the role," Puri told IANS.
Born Oct 18, 1984 in Mumbai, Pinto was a professional model before starring in Slumdog Millionaire as Latika. She also hosted international travel show Full Circle on Zee International Asia Pacific between 2006-2008.
"Freida began her modelling career in mid 2005 with Elite. She had never modelled before she signed up with us. She visited the Elite office in Mumbai with some pictures shot by her friends. We realised that she was good and offered her a modelling contract. We have also featured her on the Elite calendar for two years," Puri said.
Freida had an edge over "newcomers" because she was confident and articulate. She was naturally comfortable in front of the camera, said Puri.
Six years ago, Puri decided to set up Elite India after she realised that the country required grooming schools and more modelling agencies because the profession was becoming a mainstream career option for girls in metros.
"We represent some of the best and biggest names in fashion and commercial modelling," she claimed.
Anushka Sharma, who starred in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi opposite Shahrukh Khan, former Miss India Neha Kapur, and top models Vipasha Agarwal, Sonalika Sahay and Diana Penty are some of the other faces launched by Puri's Elite agency.
"I don't know how many Indian girls will see that level in Hollywood although I believe this has opened up doors for others. However, Bollywood is within reach. A good example is Anushka Sharma," Puri said.