When Freida Pinto was signed as the romantic lead opposite Dev Patel about two years ago for Slumdog Millionaire, the 22-year-old actress wondered if it would look like she was cradle snatching. Dev was just about 17. Now, everyone seems to wonder -- and this was the big question thrown at both of them at their red carpet appearance before the Oscar ceremony -- if the on-screen chemistry has become real-life chemistry.
The gorgeous looking handsome couple did not expect the question, at least it seemed so. Flustered, Dev grabbed Anil Kapoor who tried to distract everyone from the question, and declared his love for the film, and the Indian movie industry.
Pressed more about their romance, Freida said like his character in the movie, Dev was just a kid.
But the grapevine says no one should really be surprised if Freida and Dev are truly dating each other. In any event, the two have spent several months together promoting the film, giving over 200 interviews, appearing on half a dozen top TV shows in the UK, US and Canada. Since the film premiered at the Telluride film festival in September last year, and soon started the Oscar buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival, the two have hardly gone home. He is based in London where he lives with his parents, and Freida in Mumbai.
Freida half-heartedly said she wasn't dating any one. She blushed when she was asked if a lot of big names in Hollywood had asked her out. No, she said, repeating it several times.
Fox Searchlight which released the 10-Oscar nominated Slumdog Millionaire in America and couple of other territories including India, flew in the film's other seven artists (apart from Dev and Freida) who play the three children at various stages of their life in the movie.
The children, carrying themselves with grace, drew wide attention and got over three minutes of limelight. They were asked to announce their names, and they did it cheerfully, without any hesitation. The fact they got so much of TV time on an evening that had Hollywood's biggest names including Brad Pitt and Kate Winslet was no small thing.
Director Danny Boyle was asked on the red carpet whether some of the children were indeed from the slums. He said some of them came from poor families but the film unit treated every child as equal. According to the Hollywood press, Fox Searchlight went out of the way to groom the children for the event, bring along a family member (for each child) to Hollywood and put them up in good hotels.
Also on the red carpet were Irrfan Khan who has just about 10 minutes in the film but leaves a powerful impact as the nasty police inspector and Anil Kapoor who plays the devious talent show host.
Irrfan said the reason the film became such a hit was that it offered the masala Bollywood offers. But it was also a tightly knit cerebral film, and that made its appeal universal, he suggested.
In the picture: Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto and Dev Patel at the 81 Academy Awards.
Text: Arthur J Pais | Photograph: Lucas Jackson/REUTERS)