Here is what Freida Pinto had to say about Desert Dancer:
IAR: To begin with, what were your initial thoughts when you read the screenplay for Desert Dancer and learned about the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian?
Freida Pinto: I actually heard about this film from my agent who gave me the script because wonderful Richard Raymond is such a good spokesperson for this project and for his beliefs in wanting to tell this story. He was so driven by passion that he would figure out a way to reach out to me through my agency. When he sent me the script, the first thing that actually came to mind was that if there is anyone who can play this character then it absolutely has to be me because it is a great way to learn a new skill. More than anything else it was an idea that was so far removed from my world that it was very intriguing to me. I loved the complexity of Elaheh’s character. To be honest I fell in love with the character before I fell in love with the entire script.
What was it about the character that you immediately fell in love with?
Pinto: It was definitely an opportunity to dance, and that was part of it. But to be really honest, I love characters that are two extremes. To be honest, what was written on the page was still not enough for me. I still could not figure out who she really was. The exploration of that was the most interesting part to me. I love observing people, studying them and learning about them. This was one more opportunity to do that. It is so boring to play characters that are just you. You look at them and go, oh, that is me! Then why do I need to play that? I will just be me, right?
You just mentioned that when you read the script, “what was written on the page was still not enough” for you. As an actress, when that happens what do you do?
Pinto: I meet the people who can guide me and take me to what else there is between the lines. I spoke to Afshin (Ghaffarian), which was a very interesting conversation we had in Paris. It was like what I call one of those dinner dates that was meant to last two hours but it went on for six. I asked him all of these questions about Elaheh. The next day he called up Richard and said, “Is this (movie) all about Elaheh now?” It was very interesting to get his perspective on her because I was never going to meet her. This was my only hope. The rest was actually based on a meeting I attended. I spoke to a lot of people who have had some sort of addiction in their lives and understand what drives them and makes them want to escape. That kind of research was very informative.
Finally, the film’s theme is really freedom of expression. Did your own views on that subject change at all after making this movie?
Pinto: I have been lucky because I have never had to experience any oppression in that sense. When growing up in Bombay with my family, I just had complete freedom to do what I wanted to do. The thought of actually not having it scared me so much that I wanted to put something out there in a creative form. My form of contribution to it would be a film because that is all that I can do. I want to talk about the subject matter. I want people to think about it. I want people who take it for granted to also have a conversation about oppression and freedom of expression. It is not just an Iranian issue. It is not just an issue that is specific to one country. It is pretty much all over the world. It is important to talk about the subject matter.
Desert Dancer opens in theaters on April 17th.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Desert Dancer was produced by Relativity Media, which is iamROGUE's parent company.