Freida Pinto first stole our hearts in her breakout role in the iconic film Slumdog Millionaire, and now she's back — dancing once again — in her latest film Desert Dancer. The film, based on real-life events, revolves around a group of dancers who risk their lives by illegally starting a secret dance company, fighting for self-expression.
The talented and stunning actress stopped by BuzzFeed NY to chat about her experience shooting the film, and answered some burning questions from the BuzzFeed Community. Here's what went down.
How long did it take you to learn the dances in Desert Dancer, and did the dancing in Slumdog Millionaire help prepare you for this role?
Freida Pinto: No! It is the opposite of getting someone prepared for Desert Dancer. (laughs) It took about a year to learn, to get trained and to pick up the choreography. The Desert Dancer dances were learned about three, three and half months before filming, but up until that time was all prep and training. Slumdog Millionaire was a night of learning and three nights of dancing. And it was, uh, crazy to say the least. We were really bad. (laughs)
What was the hardest part about training for the dancing scenes?
FP: Physically it was really, really stressful because none of us were professional dancers. Reece Ritchie, who's a lead actor in the film, he's a really good dancer, he's a natural. But none of us were trained in formal dancing. So I guess just putting in the hours was very, very important. I started at four hours at first, then six hours, and then eight hours a day for six days a week. It's really frustrating — the fact that you have a certain move that you've been asked to learn, and that takes three or four days to just perfect or even to get just right. The frustration of it can be very, very daunting and difficult. But it's fun! It's a fun thing — once you get it and once you feel like it's in your body, it's so liberating.
Is there a specific dancer or style of dance you studied as inspiration for this role?
FP: For my character I chose to use a lot of Martha Graham inspiration. And the director loved the idea. At first he was like, "Yeah, I'm doing Nureyev ballet," and I go, "Uh-uh, no!" I'm not doing those pirouettes! Nureyev's pirouettes are impossible. I guess the only other person — not exactly like Nureyev — but Baryshnikov does the most amazing pirouettes. But no, I didn't want to base it in ballet, I wanted to do it more modern, more contemporary. So it was Martha Graham who really inspired me, and Akram Khan, who's the choreographer of the film, used some of that and put some of his own inspiration into it as well. So it's kind of like a mishmash of many beautiful things.
So you had the choice to pick what kind of style you wanted to do?
FP: Well, I think I kind of forced it on them. (laughs) I was like, "No, I wanna do Martha Graham!" No, um, it was just an idea. I just said, I watched all these various dancers and teachers and I feel like my dance language and Martha's dance language merge the best, and now it's just a matter of doing it right.
What was it like shooting out in the middle of the desert and having to dance out there?
What's your opinion on Bollywood — how similar or different it is from Hollywood? (via Ritika Jani)
FP: Well, they're both movie industries and they both entertain, they both make a lot of money. Well, they both pay women less. But it's different — culturally they're very different settings, you know. India produces its own films, and they have the money to pump into their own films. Whereas in Hollywood they need external funding as well. With a film like Desert Dancer, if there was, say, a Bollywood producer who believed in it, they would just pop in the money and the film would get made. Whereas in Hollywood I feel like independent films take a lot longer for belief to even happen. But I think, yeah, they're both movie-making industries with different cultural settings.
Who is your favorite Bollywood actor and actress, and what is your favorite film and song from Bollywood? (via sabiamushtaq2000)
FP: I think all the actors I like are from the '70s and '80s because my father forced me to watch those films, and I'm so glad he did. From contemporary cinema, Alia Bhatt. She's amazing, she's really funny. She has a great sense of humor. I think there was a thing that happened where she fudged the name of the prime minister of India or something like that on a big talk show, and they said, "Oh, the girl's dumb." So she went out and did a skit on it, about being super dumb (laughs) and I just thought it was great. And she did this film called Highway, and all the songs on that film are just phenomenal.