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Freida Pinto: 'Dance training for Desert Dancer was daunting'

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Freida Pinto has said that she found the intensive dance training for Desert Dancer daunting.

Based on the true story of Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian, who risked his life for his dream to become a dancer despite a nationwide ban on dance in Iran, Pinto undertook an intensive training schedule for the role that comprised eight hours of dance rehearsals every day for 14 weeks.

Freida Pinto at a photocall to publicise the upcoming film Desert Dancer at Sadlers Wells theatre, London

© PA Images / Jonathan Brady/PA Wire


['Desert Dancer' photocall - Freida Pinto]

Speaking to Digital Spy ahead of the film's first shooting schedule , the Slumdog Millionaire star said: "When I met Richard [Raymond, director] in November and he said that he wanted to shoot in March, I said, 'There's no way I'm going to be ready for March', especially the way he described this character... it got pushed back a couple of months, which has all been a blessing because that's the kind of time I needed to reach this stage.

"The best thing that has happened out of this experience is that I have stopped judging myself. As soon as you have a mirror in front of you and you start dancing, you kind of think, 'Oh I look so silly'. I can't believe I'm doing this and that is the biggest hindrance, and once you get over that hurdle it gets a lot easier.

"My biggest regret is not being able to go to Iran for the film. We really tried."

The film's dance sequences have been choreographed by renowned dance exponent Akram Khan, who described the experience of teaching the actors how to dance.

"What I love about actors is their ability to be kind of vulnerable - especially with the kind of dance that we do - and they in a sense embraced it, even if they looked silly at times. There's something very beautiful at times, something very honest about it. I was in doubt about whether we need to make this more sophisticated, but Richard said no the simpler the better and they all embraced that.

Freida Pinto and Akram Khan at a photocall to publicise the upcoming film Desert Dancer at Sadlers Wells theatre, London

© PA Images / Matt Crossick/EMPICS Entertainment


['Desert Dancer' photocall - Freida Pinto with Akram Khan]

"It's been incredible. It's an exciting project to work on with Frieda, Reece [Ritchie], Tom [Cullen] and Richard. She is wonderful. You know why? Because she is so unassuming. She doesn't bring the baggage that a lot of actors sometimes bring - which is the connections they have, the kind of status that they have - and I'm always of the philosophy that I don't give a ****.

"Once we're in the studio I'm a human being and you're a human being, and we're here to discover. So it was very open and humbling, and it was wonderful to see someone throw themselves into something they don't know much about and you know more about it. The film is not actually about dance, it's about why we need to dance and I like films that try to answer questions and the fact that it's based in truth."

Pinto, who worked with Akram Khan training in ballet as well as modern dance for the role, said that she has become physically and emotionally stronger as a result of the training.

Freida Pinto, choreographer Akram Khan, actors Reece Ritchie and Tom Cullen at a photocall to publicise the upcoming film Desert Dancer at Sadlers Wells theatre, London

© PA Images / Jonathan Brady/PA Wire


['Desert Dancer' photocall - Freida Pinto with Akram Khan, Reece Ritchie and Tom Cullen]

"I've known Akram even before the film because as fellow Asians we kind of root for each other," she said. "As soon as we knew Akram was going to be on board with the film, we knew it was going to be taken to the next level.

"Physically I have definitely become stronger, but I have found that dance has made me emotionally stronger as well. I deal with situations much better. So for me, this is much more than training for a film. This is training for life."

Pinto's co-star Reese Ritchie, who plays Afshin Ghaffarian in the film, told Digital Spy that he had a new-found appreciation for dance as a result of the training process.

"It's been a very intense process," he explained. "We've really had to get to the wall and battle on through it. Its given me a new-found love and respect for dance. It's much harder than going to the gym. You're using muscles you never knew you had. It's been really enlightening for me and informed my physicality for future work.

"It's a very human story born out of feeling restricted and fighting to break free and express yourself in a very human way. I was completely blown away that I had taken dance for granted my whole life and freedom of speech, freedom of movement and then to see someone in another country who was my age, who looked like me but had all these manacles that are imposed by the regime to me was mind-blowing, [as was] to see the seed that can grow out of that oppression."

Desert Dancer also stars Marama Corlett and Tom Cullen. It is due to be released next year.

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