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With ‘Trishna,’ Freida Pinto explores a darker side

FreidPin|  Stephen Lovekin~Getty Images

Freida Pinto | Stephen Lovekin~Getty Images

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Updated: August 16, 2012 6:08AM

Growing up in Mumbai, India, Freida Pinto had big dreams.

The 27-year-old star of “Slumdog Millionaire” tells a story: “When I was a little girl I was raised Catholic and used to go to Sunday school. In eighth grade, the teacher said, ‘I want all of you students to come to the front of the room and say one thing that you want to do when you grow up.’

“I walked to the front of the room and proudly said, ‘I want everyone to hear my voice,’ ” she says.

“Then, I added, ‘I’d like to be in the limelight so everyone can really hear my voice.’ ”

So far, so good. Pinto stars in director Michael Winterbottom’s “Trishna” (opening Friday), based on the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The story revolves around a tragic relationship between the rich son of a property developer (Riz Ahmed) and the poor daughter of a rickshaw owner.

1 The role in “Trishna” was not only physically daunting, but also emotionally draining. What was the toughest part?

Physically, it was a lot of manual labor where I was working in fields and carrying heavy trays around. I did a lot of farm work, which was good in a way because I didn’t really have to go to the gym. I did develop strong calf muscles from scaling sand dunes. There are scenes in this movie that are brutal. She is tortured both mentally and physically and is also raped. It was just so emotionally draining.

2 How did you handle the rape scenes?

You can’t stand in front of the mirror and feel what it’s like to be raped. You can’t sit in a chair and try to conjure it up in your mind if it has never happened to you. I would sit and cry trying to think about it. Otherwise, I tried to tap into my darker side and feel what I could feel, which is probably just a quarter of what it really feels like to be sexually assaulted.

3 What was the emotional impact of doing this film?

Sometimes you don’t put to rest what you opened up emotionally that day. It’s like walking around with an open wound. You are the open wound. I know intellectually that you need to close the day and wash it off of you, which is good advice for all people in all professions. But why is it so difficult?

4 You’ve said that doing this film made you feel enraged when you read stories about how women are treated around the world.

So many women live lives where there are no choices. There are women who exist like Trishna existed. I’ve met women who are like her. They are at the whim of someone else’s choices. They have to submit to situations that are degrading or much worse. I’m just glad that filming a movie could make me understand their plight a bit more now.

5 When you’re a little girl in India who announces she wants to be a big movie star, what is the reaction at home?

My dad was surprisingly supportive. I thought if anyone would be worried about this big, bad world and his daughter, it would be my dad. Strangely, he wasn’t afraid of it. Of course, my parents don’t really understand the industry, but ignorance in this case is bliss.

Big Picture News Inc.

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