In the film she is described as the most beautiful girl in the world, well that works in the film and outside of it. Freida is absolutely stunning inside and out. Sitting and talking to her about the film was an absolute pleasure because she spoke so openly and freely. She has worked very hard to break into the business and is extremely excited to have finally taken her first step. And what a step it is… She is amazing in the film and I’m sure has a huge career ahead of her.
She was more than happy to talk about the film, working in the slums, what it’s like trying to break into the business in India, and working with Danny Boyle as a first time actor.
You’ve been a model for a while, was acting something you always wanted to do?
Absolutely ever since I was 5, I remember I always wanted to act, maybe then I wasn’t aware that I wanted to make a profession out of it but I was kind of inclined to it. In my 3rd year at degree college which is like when your around 20, I took a course that was film and literature, I just knew that was it, this is what I wanted to do. So I took it up professionally after that, and then after college I decided I wanted to get into films, but it’s really difficult, because Bollywood is really tight. If you want to get into it, you need to have a mother, father, sister brother, someone to push you in the right direction. So I had gone into modeling hoping I would get that sort of visibility factor, and maybe a ticket, but that didn’t work. I got a travel show instead. I was presenting, at an international travel show, which is all over southeast Asia, and just after the show was coming to an end, I realized my life’s over, I have nothing fun to do anymore but then Slumdog happened. The casting director called various agencies in Bombay saying Danny Boyle is coming down to India to shoot this film and they’re looking for actors. I couldn’t believe it. So I went in for the audition, and six months of auditioning, finally gave me the role.
During the 6 months auditioning, how many times did you go in, how many times did you read?
There was a kitchen scene, the first time I read with Loveleen, the second time on it was with Danny. I would go in probably once a month sometimes twice a month, and every time I’d go for an audition Danny would say “fantastic, I’ll see you again,” so every time he said that I’d say “OK maybe in three days…” 30 days he just kept me waiting! And I think every time I went in — I’m not complaining — it think I was literally like going to acting school and I think it was necessary because I’ve had no acting experience besides the amateur theater that I’ve done, I think it was necessary to go through 6 months.
Did Danny direct you in those auditions?
Absolutely he did. He tried diverse things, and tried to improvise. The thing that we kept constant throughout was the supply of the character, but we kind of changed the positions, positioning of the scene, we tried to change that a bit.
I heard that Danny encourages you to work with the other characters playing your role and watch their scenes, what did you take away from it?
I read the script first, and I read little Latika’s spot, Rubina, that’s the girl who plays little Latika. I was like that’s the Latika I can relate to because she’s a feisty stubborn little girl, she’s got this zest for life and she’s playful. And she’s a fighter, you know. And the moment you come to Tanvi, the girl who plays Latika in the middle, she automatically gets submissive, she’s grown before her time, she’s 14, but she looks like she could be 18, 20. So it was really important to watch the kids to see how they had grown so that I could grow beyond that as well. Danny had already shot scenes with the two characters and I watched it and It was such an immense amount of pressure because they were so good and it just seemed so effortless. It just makes it kind of simpler to have watched it so that the growth seems not disconnected, just seems fluid.
Seems like you knew Danny Boyle’s work.
I did, I studied Trainspotting when I took up film and literature, and I love The Beach and 28 Days Later, and Life Less Ordinary. Life Less Ordinary not very sure if it made it very big here, but I loved the film, I love the opening shot. Maybe Sunshine and Millions were films I watched after he came down to India.
Having studied his films in college, what were you expecting from him when you finally met him, and what was it actually like?
I was quite nervous, because I know the kind of films that he’s done, they’re so extraordinary and he’s got pension for the extraordinary. He’s doesn’t do anything that anybody is ever seen before. So I was quite nervous because I was not really sure of his title of direction and again it’s a foreign perspective. So I was not very sure how the direction would be like. I really wasn’t expecting anything, but I was nervous I remember. The moment he came in and opened the door, he was like “Hello Freida, come in!” And I just settled in.
What was it like working with Anil Kapoor who is a huge star in India?
I think it was great just watching him cause hes such an experienced actor. Just watching him conduct himself and kinda get the crowd, he was very helpful because crowds would listen to him cause he’s Anil Kapoor, everyone was like OK we’ll listen to him, he’s like God. So anything he said was taken in good spirit, it was fantastic watching him. He’s got such a strong presence, just observing him can teach you a lot.
Latika is an extremely complex character, were there any scenes that were difficult for you?
It was really difficult for me because doing the kitchen scene was by far the toughest, because she’s so submissive there and she’s s frightened. The real Freida would fight back and run away the first opportunity she got. And here she’s saying “no no no,” but shes meaning “yes, I want to but I can’t.” After doing the scene over and over again I started getting really submissive by nature and Danny just came and said something and I was like “OK, I’ll do it.” So the fighter in me just died after sometime. I think it was important for the character.
Loveleen was the co-director on the film, what was it like working with her and Danny?
Loveleen is from India, so she kind of understood the Indian sensibility and she would explain to Danny time and again. Loveleen started directing me initially, in terms of the auditions and once Danny came along, he took over. Loveleen was there mostly cause of the kids, because if you realize the kids spots are in Hindi and you need someone who can speak Hindi, who can direct the kids. So that is where Loveleen really came into the picture with the kids especially. Whatever you see the kids doing it’s Loveleen and Danny, it’s the two of them put together. The kids really loved the playfulness that Danny had and Loveleen would be, she’d hate me if I said this, like a mother and a friend. She was like a mother who would tell them what to do next. All you had to do is give them the lines, and they don’t have to read and analyze like we did, they just go and deliver, so effortless.
How much fun was it to do the dance number at the end?
I loved it. Dev had a different view on that one. Because the first time he heard there was a dance sequence, the script said the whole train station bursts into a song and dance, we thought it was a metaphor. It was not really going to happen, as is Simon’s style of writing. When Danny said you’re actually going to dance, I jumped up and I was like “YAY! I’m excited, let’s dance!” Because I am from India, and Bollywood has such a strong element of song and dance in every firm. Dev was just like, “Oh my god, I can’t do this I’m a Brit boy,” that’s what he said. “I can’t do this because everyone’s going to make fun of [me] when [I] go back home to England.” It was fun for me because I think dance is such a great from of expression and just going out there, letting loose and losing all your inhibitions was such a fun thing.
Were you asked to use any specific accent in the film or drop yours?
No absolutely not. In fact, Dev had to lose his accent because it’s very strongly British and he had to kind of tone that down a bit. In Bombay, because it’s like a melting pot, you have people coming from different parts of India with different backgrounds and education. Everyone has a different accent over there, so you’ll never be able to pin point and say that is the Bombay accent. Dev has this habit of saying “totally coool.” I said that’s not the Indian accent!
Can you talk a little about working with Dev, because he grew up in England but he’s Indian and that’s sort of interesting cause you grow up in India, did it feel like he was finding his roots there?
Absolutely. I keep saying this, Danny and Dev should be given Indian passports because they have embraced the culture so beautifully and it’s not a very difficult culture to embrace because it’s warm and generous by nature. But Bombay can be quite chaotic. It was Dev’s first time to Bombay. This is where he could relate to people because Bombay’s a city where you need to either get with it or just get out of it. If you can’t get with it and your going to complain, you just can’t live in that city. You have to get used to people honking all the time, you know driving in Bombay’s crazy. And he didn’t complain, after a while he loved it. I think I complained more than he did. I think it was a great experience for him, he kept saying he rediscovered himself over there, part of himself.
What about shooting in those in the intense heat and with all the crowds?
That’s exactly what I’m saying. You can’t do that with people in Bombay because it’s so obsessed with film, the film culture, the Bollywood. You just have to put one small little camera over there with one man holding some dinky light and everyone will be around you, or you just stand look up at the sky. That’s juts how Bombay is, it’s very easy to gather crowds, and very difficult to get them away. So it was I think, the train sequence we shot that was a bit difficult because people would look into the camera and that obviously doesn’t work for the film, it looks really silly. So that was difficult, but I think hats off to Danny, shooting the slum scene, going into the condition the way it is and shooting it the way it is, no masking what so ever. And they managed to do it, they pulled it off. There are so many films in India, that are made in Bombay, but this is the one film that is the truest most honest film to the city.
In America, the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” came and went, is it still as popular in India ?
It has come and gone in India, I think it’s been two years. In India would [very well known people] would be the host of the game show. If you go to people’s homes there are people who put up pictures of their gods and then their favorite film star.
Is this your first time coming to America?
My second time. My first time was New York couple of weeks back, I loved it. New York is like Bombay in a way, its pretty chaotic too. Just a little more organized in terms of traffic and more high rises whereas Bombay is crazy. You step out of your building, you step out of your home, and on one side of you have the high rises and just on the other side you have the slums.
What do you feel like is your next step? Another film?
Of course I hope so.
Is there anything you’d love to do next?
I don’t want to box myself. It’s too early, I just started. I definitely want to go out there and try. Whatever comes my way, I hope its good stuff.
Thank you for your time Latika!
Slumdog Millionaire is in select theaters now! Check out ScreenCrave’s Slumdog Millionaire review.