Today, roles not restricted to ethnicity: Freida Pinto (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Gone are the days when actors from different nationalities were restricted to playing roles based on their ethnicity, feels US-based Indian actress Freida Pinto. She also says that nobody is tagged as an ‘American’, ‘British’ or ‘Indian’ in the current film scenario worldwide.

The 31-year-old, who started her career in films with “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008, says it will be “weird” if actors only get to play roles belonging to their nationalities.

“Actors – depending on what ethnicity he/she belongs to – want to enter the film world saying that they only want to play that ethnicity in their entire career gets a little weird because that will be very limiting in many ways,” Freida, who starred in the short film “Black Knight Decoded” for Pepsi, told IANS.

“I think it’s my own perspective on ethnicity… I’ve been living in America for the last seven years and when I look around I don’t really mock people like ‘that’s an American’ or ‘that’s an Australian’ or ‘an English men’. In the end they all just blend into one after a while because you stop doing it with respect to nationalities and ethnicity.

“We are in a time where actors from different ethnicity are playing all type of roles. So I really don’t understand why any one particular actor belonging to any ethnic minority has to play character based on that group. This isn’t happening any more. I feel blessed to be working in TV and films where people are not just worried about being Americans and Britishers,” added the BAFTA nominated actress.

In a short span of her career in the entertainment industry, Freida – irrespective of her Indian ethnicity – 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 the “Slumdog Millionaire”.

The actress says that she is very lucky to have worked with different production houses.

“I started off in 2008 when I first came to the international film scene. I was very hopeful and also excited of the prospects of being given an opportunity to work with not just once particular film industry. I’ve been very lucky to work with a French co-production or British co-production or an Italian co-production,” she said.

Today when Bollywood stars like Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan and Suraj Sharma are getting a chance to work in Hollywood, Freida feels “the film world is slowly but surely changing”.

“The film world is taking strides to do whatever they can to make representation more diverse. People are slowly getting exposed to diversity and the more they are being exposed to diversity, the more they are able to accept it,” she said.

Asked whether perception for Indian films is changing globally, Freida said: “Absolutely. The credit for this goes to the people who have worked really hard in changing the game. Yes, there is a surreal hype that people have about Indian films, which still exits, I wouldn’t say it has completely eradicated and taken out of the picture.

“But such amazing work has been done with films like ‘The Lunchbox’ and such amazing actors have come to this part of the world like Nimrat (Kaur) and Suraj (Sharma). In many ways I feel very lucky to be part of the start of the revolution with ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Now there is no one stopping us.

So, is she getting roles of her choice?

Freida said: “Yes, definitely. I don’t think even when I started off, I didn’t get them”.

The Mumbai girl says more than ethnicity and choice of roles, she is concerned about “representation of women” in films.

“It is now slowly changing as there has been a loud noise being made about it in Hollywood, Bollywood and all over the world,” she said.

“Lets not forget the biggest film at the box office right now is ‘Star Wars’ and no doubt it is the longest running franchise, but it has a young girl (Daisy Ridley) in the lead role. Also we see Jennifer Lawrence in ‘The Hunger Games’. Who thought this would happen?

“Also we have films like ‘Room’ and ‘Carol’ in the lineup which feature such amazing characters of women. It’s a myth, that women don’t dwell at the box office,” she added.

(Sandeep Sharma can be contacted at sandeep.s@ians.in)

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