For Freida Pinto, diversity is not about being “black or brown” or isn’t just confined to what one sees on camera but is what goes behind it. The US-based Indian actress, who found fame with the Oscar winning “Slumdog Millionaire”, says unless the debate on diversity extends beyond skin colour, it is “pointless and redundant”.
From veteran actors like Shashi Kapoor, Kabir Bedi, Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Anil Kapoor and Lillete Dubey to names like Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone — Indian actors have made their mark in foreign filmdom.
While most of them have evaded stereotypical presentation, Freida feels there’s a need to broaden the definition of ‘diversity’.
“Everybody wants to talk about diversity, but I like to broaden the definition. It is not just diversity in terms of ethnicity and skin colour, as in black or brown. It has become a redundant conversation. It is not about representing people on sexual orientation. That should never be a barrier for the kind of roles that people play,” Freida said.
She added: “I think diversity is a compulsory subject matter and, yes, there is a certain issue in films. But look at the world… It does not look like a white persons’ world. There are all different kinds of people in it and all different kinds of actors and languages.”
The 31-year-old, who has already worked with the likes of actor Christian Bale and filmmaker Woody Allen, feels there is a need to focus on other important aspects of filmmaking than just see what meets the eye.
She said: “It is not only the representation that you see on camera; what about the people who write, what about the people who direct, what about the people who produce? So for me, diversity becomes a very pointless conversation after a while if people are only talking about and sticking to colour of skin.
“Colour of the skin is not diversity.”
In a short span of her career in the entertainment industry, Freida has carved out a niche of her own in world cinema through her roles in films like “Miral”, “Day of the Falcon”, “Immortals”, “Desert Dancer” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.
Freida was also seen with Bale in Terrence Malick’s film “Knight of Cups”, which brought to light Hollywood’s underbelly.
On her part, she is glad that she didn’t wander on “the path where there is a lot of negativity” in the industry.
“There is a lot of criticism, a lot of temptation that is always around you and I could see it. I was pretty much protected by the group of people around me and I never had one of the things.”
Her journey, the Mumbai girl says, has been a great ride.
“I feel it is important to basically take an opportunity that comes your way, but also kind of be able to sit back and enjoy. It is harder for me to do the latter as I always think I am so young that I have to keep going…I have to keep doing that.
“It is great to have an ambition but it is kind of a little sad when people don’t enjoy their success,” said Freida, who was a model in Mumbai before she hit the jackpot with Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”.
As far as her current work slate is concerned, Freida will be voicing Mowgli’s adoptive mother in “Jungle Book: Origins”, Warner Brothers’ motion capture live-action adventure. She will also be seen in “Yamasong: March of the Hollows”.
Other than that, she is also pitching in to bring women empowerment in the industry via a non-profit production company called We Do It Together. She also attended the ongoing Cannes Film Festival for the same.