AT THIS time last year, Freida Pinto was probably one of a million girls scrambling onto the woefully crowded Malad local train. Considering that she had landed some modelling jobs and had hosted a travel show, she’d have jostled with the first-class bunch which, as every commuter in Bombay knows, can be far more vicious than any second class dibba gang. Who knows, our Freida must have occasionally been battered with laptops and prodded with tweezers if she’d dared to hog the coveted gangway space next to the door. In the evenings, she’d have been sharing a frappe with Rohan Antao, her boyfriend (oops, husband?) at the local coffee shop and perhaps spending love struck weekends with him at a cottage on Manori island. She would have been hanging out with the friends she has known since her days as an English Literature student at St Xavier’s College and practising her expressions in the mirror in the bathroom of the flat she shared with her Mangalorean parents and sister.
Then she landed that role in Slumdog millionaire. She began spending time with Danny Boyle and the crew, taking time out to show her leading man Dev Patel the sights including, perhaps, the Queen’s Necklace, the neo-gothic buildings that had once prompted Aldous Huxley to call Bombay “one of the most appalling cities in either hemisphere”, and seedily exotic Colaba. But this isn’t a tourist brochure for Urbs Prima in Indis. It’s a contemplation of what fame can do, and in the case of Freida Pinto, Oscar hopeful, BAFTA award winner and new darling of the red carpet, how it can take you from boarding the Churchgate fast every morning to riding around New York in a stretch limousine surrounded by stylists.
Suddenly, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Elle, are courting her, UK’s Sun is advising readers on how to get her ‘look’, luxury London outlets are inviting her to beam at the paparazzi from their shop fronts.
YOU’RE not sure at what point Ms Pinto, who really didn’t have much to do in the film, became an international sensation. Was it when she warmed the cockles of the firangi media’s collective heart by mumbling through a mouthful of chocolate cake at Angelina Jolie? Was it because Jolie has anointed her for a life of stardom by advising her to “keep it real” — a bit strange coming from a woman whose own life with a million kids, zillion dollar paycheques and gadzillion international do-good programmes seems as far from reality as poor Rohan Antao is from Brad Pitt. Was it because she now speaks with a Miss India accent she couldn’t have picked up at St John’s Universal High School, Goregaon? Any day now you expect her to have a white-gloved-palmto- face Sushmita Sen moment.
The truth is her stylist George Kotsiopoulos, who’d rather commit hara-kiri than let a Tahiliani near Pinto, is the real star. That other Mangalorean beauty Aishwarya Rai needs to get his number quick. The boob-squash thingy she wore to the Berlin Film Festival is just the sort of outfit George would chuck into Bombay’s stinking Mahim creek… as Freida’s usual local lumbers slowly over it.
Which brings you to the question, what will Freida do next? Will she snap out of her fame-induced amnesia and run back into Antao’s arms once the Slumdog fever dies down? Or will she find herself a Pitt replica? Whatever she does, let’s hope she doesn’t imitate Jolie’s bizarre fertility goddess routine. With whoever. •