Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, “Slumdog Millionaire,” discuss the movie

NBC News Today
Published: November 21, 2008

A new movie called “Slumdog Millionaire” is getting all sorts of Oscar buzz these days with reviewers calling it, quote, “A masterpiece” and “one in a million.” Set in modern day India in the city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, “Slumdog Millionaire” is an explosive rags-to-riches fairy tale with a hopeful message about the power of persistence and love.

The stakes are high for Jamal. An uneducated orphan from the slums of India, he is on the brink of winning the jackpot on the Hindi version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.”

VIEIRA: But his success arouses suspicions and he is accused of cheating. Though he is in the hot seat, the prize for Jamal is not money but the chance to reunite with his childhood sweetheart.
(Clip from “Slumdog Millionaire”)
VIEIRA: The two poverty-stricken kids must overcome a lifetime of fear, violence and corruption to survive
the urban street life of Mumbai and to live out their destiny.
Dev Patel and his lifeline, Freida Pinto, are the stars of “Slumdog Millionaire.” Good morning to both of you.
Mr. DEV PATEL (“Slumdog Millionaire”): Thank you.
Ms. FREIDA PINTO (“Slumdog Millionaire”): Good morning.
VIEIRA: Such a pleasure to have you here. Loved the movie, saw it about a month ago. It is terrific. It is about facing difficult odds and surmounting them, and that’s sort of what you guys were up against. I mean, first movie for both of you, right?
Mr. PATEL: Yes.
VIEIRA: And it was actually first time in New York, first time live interview.
Ms. PINTO: Mm-hmm.
VIEIRA: On American television.
Mr. PATEL: Yes, it is.
VIEIRA: How is all of this settling in for you guys? Has it hit you?
Mr. PATEL: It hasn’t. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest.
Ms. PINTO: Yeah, it started in September, and it still hasn’t hit us really, so…
Mr. PATEL: Yeah. It’s just a big blur, to be honest.
Ms. PINTO: So happy.
VIEIRA: The director, when he was looking for Jamal, the character Jamal, who could play him, he decided he wanted to pick somebody who sort of looked like a loser, right?
Mr. PATEL: A loser, yes, yes. That’s right. VIEIRA: Kind of a back-handed compliment.
Mr. PATEL: So initially, Danny wanted to cast his leading man… VIEIRA: Danny Boyle, right?
Mr. PATEL: Yes, Danny Boyle, wanted to cast his lead guy out in Bombay and wanted an all-Indian cast. However, to get into Bollywood there, the guys need to be buffed up and masculine and good looking, which I guess I’m not.
VIEIRA: Well, you’re awfully cute. You are very cute.
Mr. PATEL: Yeah. He’s an underdog, the character I play, Jamal Malik.
Mr. PATEL: And yeah, he’s meant to be just an average Joe. And I think that’s what he kind of saw in me.
VIEIRA: You are British and now you’re playing…
Mr. PATEL: Yes.
VIEIRA: …somebody from India, right, living in the slums. How did you get into the mind-set of a slumdog, which is what the kids are called…
Ms. PINTO: Mm-hmm.
Mr. PATEL: That was…
VIEIRA: …who live in the slums?
Mr. PATEL: …that was really tricky. Danny Boyle was great because before we started doing the filming he took me on location, scouting when they search for locations to shoot the film, and I got to see the slums. I also…
VIEIRA: Were you overwhelmed by them?
Mr. PATEL: They are.
Ms. PINTO: Yeah.
Mr. PATEL: I went to a slum called Dharavi, which has got a population of two million people and still growing.
Ms. PINTO: Yes.
Mr. PATEL: And it was just–it was shocking, to be honest. It was great as well because it sort of broke my stereotypes of what I thought slum life would be, coming from London. And I’d done an internship at a call center and I worked in a hotel for a day, which was really scary. They had me washing dishes for like four hours. They saw this foreigner come in with a bright red Bruce Lee T-shirt and like trainers and they were like ah, we got him.
VIEIRA: We got him now.
Freida, you are from Mumbai, so you really know what that city is like. Did the–did the movie capture it?
Ms. PINTO: Absolutely. I am from Mumbai and I literally–I keep saying I’ve put in 23 years of research into this film, not knowing I was going to play this part. But you can never really know that city, because it’s ever changing and it’s growing by the day. But Danny Boyle’s really captured it so beautifully. The truest, most honest depiction. So many films in India made in Bombay, but this is the truest portrayal.
VIEIRA: And the children who play you guys as kids are phenomenal, two of the three… Ms. PINTO: Mm-hmm. Yeah, they are.
VIEIRA: …because one of the characters is your brother…
Mr. PATEL: Yeah.
VIEIRA: …are actually from the slums.
Ms. PINTO: Slums.
VIEIRA: Did–I know you didn’t work directly with them, but did they blow you away, their performance?
Ms. PINTO: Absolutely. In fact, Danny wanted us to watch a bit of the footage that they’d already done with the kids…
Ms. PINTO: … he told us, `OK, so find, come in here and I’m just going to show you what these kids have already done.’   he shows us this immense amount of pressure. Like, oh my God. That’s what we have to keep up to right now, you know, just to see them–make it seem seamless. So they’re excellent.
VIEIRA: And all these kids in the slum area, they all know Bollywood very well, your film industry. Ms. PINTO: Oh, they do. They do.
VIEIRA: I mean, they know the movies. Is it escape for them? Is it…
Ms. PINTO: I think it’s–I think everyone’s crazy about Bollywood in India. These little kids, like Danny was telling us, that they wanted to copy Shah Rukh Khan and…(unintelligible)…and Danny was like, `No, just be yourself.’
Mr. PATEL: Yeah.
Ms. PINTO: They know everything. It’s like a craze in India.
Mr. PATEL: I think, yeah, going there, witnessing it, I think it’s sort of part of life, Bollywood… Ms. PINTO: Yeah.
Mr. PATEL: …in India.
Ms. PINTO: You know, the strangest thing we have–they have altars, these–where they worship, obviously, they put the pictures of the god and goddess and then they have a Bollywood actor next to it. So that’s how it is.
VIEIRA: It’s right there next to the god. Ms. PINTO: Yeah.
VIEIRA: And I personally as host of “Millionaire” in this country, the syndicated version, I loved that as the backdrop. But you don’t go there for the money, you got there because you’re hoping, you’re hoping that Latika watches you because everybody in India watches “Millionaire.”
Mr. PATEL: Yeah.
Ms. PINTO: Mm-hmm.
Mr. PATEL: I mean, yeah, it’s probably one of the biggest shows out there and the guy who hosts it is like the god of the Bollywood stars. He’s Amitabh Bachchan, who first–was the first guy that hosted it, and this kid, I guess his thinking is if I can get on the show maybe she’ll find me.
VIEIRA: Yeah. And she does. And the ending–I don’t want to give away–but it is vintage Bollywood. It is an unbelievable dance scene at the train station. You didn’t know how to dance. This one taught you.
Mr. PATEL: Yes, she did.
VIEIRA: As we go out, can you show us some of your stuff?
VIEIRA: Come on, guys. We have a little music.
Mr. PATEL: Let’s–oh, look, the music’s there.
VIEIRA: Come on, let’s go.
Mr. PATEL: All right. Got to warm up.
Ms. PINTO: This is Danny Boyle’s favorite move. It’s the basketball move.
Mr. PATEL: The double basketball, right?
Ms. PINTO: The double basketball move.
Mr. PATEL: All right, all right. Here we go one, two…
Ms. PINTO: Two.
Mr. PATEL: There’s that one and then there was–oh, there’s a really cheesy. That. I don’t know…
Ms. PINTO: I don’t know him.
VIEIRA: It’s about hope and survival and a little bit about dancing.
Mr. PATEL: Really cheesy.
VIEIRA: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, thank you both so much.
Ms. PINTO: Thank you.
Mr. PATEL: Thank you.
VIEIRA: “Slumdog Millionaire” I kid you not, one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Oscar buzz big time. Hope you’re at the Oscars this year. It’s in theaters now.
Back in a moment. This is TODAY on NBC. Go see it. Guys, great job.
Mr. PATEL: Thank you.
Ms. PINTO: Thank you.

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