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There’s nothing to be so kicked about, girl! it’s just luck by chance
- Is it luck? Is it chance? No, it’s Freida Pinto!

WHO’S THAT GIRL?

A Mumbai girl of Mangalorean descent living in suburban Malad who still shares a two-bedroom flat with her parents and elder sister, 24-year-old Freida Pinto is the daughter of a school principal and a bank manager. An alumnus of Carmel of St Joseph School in Malad and an English Literature graduate from St Xavier’s College, Pinto — like millions of Indian girls — harboured childhood dreams of becoming an actor (“Ever since age five,” she says). She commuted in Mumbai’s crowded local trains, spent many an evening chilling out with friends at a local coffee shop, and kept dreaming. For a short while, she trained under theatre guru Barry John. She once stood in queue for a Shahid Kapur (now, she can say who’s that?) autograph. Then one fine day, she became Slumdog Millionaire’s Latika.

WHAT WAS SHE DOING BEFORE SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE?

Freida took baby steps into the glamour world in 2006 with half-a-dozen ads for brands like Wrigley’s chewing gum, Skoda, Vodafone, Airtel and DeBeers. She tried her luck as a television presenter but was rejected for being “too thin” to make a mark onscreen! “We have the voluptuous, full-figured woman thing in India,” Freida recently told an American magazine. After a few false starts, Freida landed herself a travel show host act in Full Circle on Zee International Asia Pacific, anchoring a couple of episodes.

“Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t really
a test of Freida’s acting abilities. Her real test starts now. She needs to do a lot more to prove that it just wasn’t luck.”

— Bharathi S. Pradhan

HOW DID SHE GET SLUMDOG?

It was sometime in 2007 that Freida learned that Trainspotting director Danny Boyle was making a film on Mumbai and was looking out for Indian actors to play the lead roles. “My manager told me about the film and Loveleen Tandon the co-director of Slumdog Millionaire called me for the auditions. What followed was a six-month-long gruelling audition process that was overseen by none other than Danny Boyle himself,” Freida told t2 in December last year. “Freida Pinto was a girl I saw on tape. It’s a snag thing in the back of your brain.You just think, ‘I bet that’s her. I bet that’s her’,” Danny Boyle has been quoted in a recent interview. Six months (during which someproduction houses and talent scouts in Bollywood thought she wasn’t good enough to make the cut), innumerable auditions, a dozen workshops and many interactions with slum children later, Freida became Latika.

WHAT DOES SHE DO IN SLUMDOG?

As the protagonist Jamal’s childhood sweetheart, Freida’s Latika has nothing more than three-and-a-half scenes in Slumdog Millionaire. All she does during her total screen time of approximately 15 minutes is rustle up an inedible sandwich, get a bloody gash on her cheek from a couple of gangsters and shake a leg to the A.R. Rahman winner Jai ho towards the end of the film. And then there is the kiss on the railway platform with co-star Dev Patel — shown innumerable times during various award ceremonies.

HOW HAS SHE DONE IN SLUMDOG?

With screen time as little as what came Freida’s way in Slumdog Millionaire, it’s difficult to form an opinion. Most international reviews have abstained from mentioning Freida’s two-bit role, concentrating instead on the remarkable performances of the film’s child actors. One reviewer has described Pinto’s portrayal of Latika as “tepid and uninspiring.”

“Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t really a test of Freida’s acting abilities. Her real test starts now. She needs to do a lot more to prove that it just wasn’t luck,” says Bharathi S. Pradhan, The Telegraph columnist and managing editor, Movie Mag International. Mir, t2 columnist and show host, lets it rip: “I think she was extremely average and highly overrated in the film. Her screen time comes across as all the more ordinary when you compare it to the award-worthy performances put in by the actors who play the younger Latikas.”

WHY IS SHE THE NEW ‘IT’ GIRL?

Because Slumdog Millionaire is the new ‘it’ thing and Freida fits the bill for what the West wants. She has made a smooth transition from Mumbai’s local trains to New York’s plush limousines — dumping fiance Rohan Antao along the way. Her red-carpet appearances — fromDubai to Toronto to London and finally Los Angeles — have made heads turn. Fashion pundits are lauding her sense of style while fashionistas worldwide are queueing up at salons and designer boutiques to get “the Freida look”.

From Vogue to Vanity Fair, the dark-haired and dark-skinned Freida has edged out supermodels and sexy sirens from the covers. Freida sits firm on the fashion diva throne — even if she says that at age 24, she’s “too young” to wear saris. Luxury London outlets are inviting her to wave at the paparazzi from their shop fronts and every other day she is seen rubbing cheeks with an A-list Hollywood star. Freida is today the toast of Hollywood.

Not one of the other actors of Slumdog Millionaire has benefited as much from the film as Freida has done. “Freida is a perfect example of someone who got lucky by chance, because there are millions of girls like her in this country. Even today, she will hardly make any heads turn on a Mumbai road. She sure is attractive but not in the way that would make someone’s jaw drop wide open. The idea of an Indian girl making it big on the international stage holds some sort of a romantic appeal for western audiences,” says adman Prahlad Kakkar.

“Freida is a perfect example of someone who got lucky by chance, because there are millions of girls like her in this country. Even today, she will hardly make any heads turn on a Mumbai road. She sure is attractive but not in the way that
would make someone’s jaw drop wide open.”

— Prahlad Kakkar

Poise and confidence — “she walked arm in arm with Liam Neeson and presented an award at the Oscars without fumbling even once,” says Bharathi S. Pradhan — work in Pinto’s favour.

Freida’s remarkable ability to say the right things at the right time — which includes a fair amount of name-dropping — has worked wonders for her. So we have stories of Angelina Jolie walking up to Freida’s table at a restaurant and congratulating her on Slumdog’s success or Hilary Swank complimenting Freida as “one of the most beautiful girls” she had ever seen or Clint Eastwood wanting to pose for a photograph with her. Sample the best: Freida “doesn’t mind” working with Amitabh Bachchan “someday”.

No wonder the “award season sweetheart” has made it to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Ellen Degeneres Show. “She speaks very well and exudes a certain spark,” says filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. But most believe that Freida is plain lucky! “She should really start advising others on tarot cards and astrology, because I am sure she has some connection up there,” laughs Mir.

IS IT ALL IN FREIDA’S STARS?

Numerologist Niraj Mancchanda sure thinks so...

Freida’s date of birth (October 18, 1984) adds up to 5 which is the destiny number and a number that plays a vital role in governing important changes in one’s life. She signed Slumdog Millionaire in the 23rd year of her life, again a number 5. She is numerologically a number 9 and now in the 24th year of her life, she is going great guns. 2+4 adds up to 6 and 6 and 9 are in the same sequence. Luck will favour her till 2012, with 2010 and 2011 being outstanding years for Freida. Also, Freida’s name adds up to 46 which is the same as that of Charlie Chaplin. It represents immortality and also vibrates with her date of birth.

SO WHAT HAVE THE STARS SHOWERED ON HER, POST-SLUMDOG?

Freida will soon start shooting for three-time Oscar winner Woody Allen’s untitled film where she will rub shoulders with Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and — hold your breath — Sir Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas (you may breathe now!). Also on the anvil are a couple of international projects to be unveiled soon. And yes, Bollywood — and Bachchan — can wait!

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