Pinto, India’s biggest star? Pinto, India’s biggest star? Raja Sen gives five reasons why
STAR SPOTTING M12
It has been just over a year since she dazzled us with the Oscar- conquering Slumdog Millionaire, but Mumbai girl Freida Pinto has since capped that triumph with several others. She has com- pleted a film with the legendary Woody Allen, one of the finest writers of female characters, and one for artist Julian Schnabel, a director greatly feted right now due to his recent masterpiece, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.
Now, the girl frequently making it to top ten lists of Sexiest Women in
United States-based magazines might star opposite Daniel Craig in the
next James Bond movie, to be directed by Sam Mendes.
We are all dazzled by her meteoric rise, yet most of us are flummoxed
since she didn’t have much to do in her first film other than smile.
Here is my brief take on trying to make sense of this unprecedented
She’s got the look
Pinto is a stunner, no question about that. Sure, you could argue
that Bollywood cranks out a dozen bimbettes more gorgeous than
her, but Freida’s appeal is much more substantial — or at least perceived as substantial — than your average mango-juice model.
More importantly, though, she has got the right kind of exotic
‘Indian’ appeal the West has no trouble buying into. She is dusky,
leggy, sensual in the earthiest sort of way, and that smile she flashes is just the cherry on top. And what a cherry.
Uncle Oscar’s roving eye
Every few years, a small independent feature or a foreign film
comes along and wins big at the Oscars, and this darling of the
masses usually does very well for people who acted in it. Slumdog
benefited the careers of Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, while giving Dev Patel quite the slap on the back. However, it is very rare
when an actually striking woman features in one of these critically feted films. (Can’t quite picture Mo’Nique as a Bondgirl,
can we?) When she does, as Marion Cotillard did in La Vie En
Rose, both glamour quotient and the filmography receive a
massive boost, as she goes from being a striking woman to a
striking woman the whole world is aware of.
The India buzz
India and Bollywood have never been trendier abroad. Shah
Rukh Khan is wowing audiences overseas more effectively than he is
back home, and the finest film festivals around the world are looking
intently at cinema we are making.
And both God and Harvey Weinstein know the Americans have been trying hard
to find a Hindi-speaking A-lister. Aishwarya Rai was the first shot, but despite much
fuss kicked up over her Oprah appearance, seems to have ended up a sidekick in the
unfortunate reboot of the Pink Panther franchise. Mallika Sherawat is apparently
doing well in Los Angeles and can be seen hobnobbing with the likes of Quentin
Tarantino and Usher, but aside from the actresses’ Twitter updates, seeing a film with
her in it would be nice.
So who is the next stunner ripe for international plucking? Yup, the Slumdog girl. Freida Freida
Riding the wave
Sometimes, the whirlwind surrounding a name is so strong it just can’t stay out of
the headlines. Freida was not the star in Slumdog at all, but she has been dating the
film’s lead, Dev Patel. Then came the news that Woody Allen signed her up, and that
opened the floodgates. Even as India watched with gaping mouth as she became
our highest earning actress, the West was all to glad to jump onto the ever-grow-ing Freida bandwagon. The high-profile movie signings legitimized her, and
now that Mendes wants to reinvent Bond, that Indian girl from the new Allen
movie could be just the ticket, by Golly.
It was… written
It is hard to avoid that cliché, but everyone loves a fairytale. Pinto,
the daughter of a bank manager and a school principal, living way
out in the far end of Mumbai’s suburbs, watched Sushmita Sen
winning the Miss Universe crown and the 10-year-old Freida
was inspired. She got into modeling after finishing college,
and despite a few commercials and the role of a television
show anchor, really did not hit her stride at all for a while.
Until, that is, she auditioned for Danny Boyle. The rest is
history, and perhaps we should just marvel at this girl
and where she’s gotten instead of trying to dissect why.
And perhaps that smile is indeed worth it all. ;