Freida Pinto in Australia shining a light on sex trafficking in latest flick


The uncomfortable topic of sex trafficking takes centre stage at the opening of Melbourne's Indian International Film Festival.

Global human trafficking is estimated to be worth around $150 billion, and every year, millions of vulnerable children and women are forced into sexual slavery.

It’s a dark world of exploitation that impacts almost every corner of the globe in some way.

Best known for her role in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, Freida Pinto hopes her new film can help shine a light on the topic.

“This exploitation has been around for many years, and it has gotten worse, and the reason it has gotten worse over time is we talk about it less,” she told SBS News.

“The medium of film is really powerful, and when you know there’s a topic that needs attention, it can start to create a global conversation.”

Love Sonia, opening the Indian Film Festival, follows the journey of a young girl who tries to rescue her sister from international sex traffickers, and then herself becomes implicated in the international epidemic.

Freida Pinto in the film 'Love Sonia'.
Freida Pinto in the film 'Love Sonia'.

Director Tabrez Noorani has a unique understanding of how the global industry works - for over a decade he worked alongside non-government organisations (NGOs) to rescue girls forced into sex work.

Pretending to scout for locations for his film, Mr Noorani was able to feed information to the NGOs about the brothels which had forced underage girls into working for them.

“I had been on these raids, and rescued the girls myself, and been in rehab with them in different parts of the world,” he said.

While the plot of Love Sonia is alarming, its based on the women's real life experiences.

“From the beginning, it was important to me that the movie needed to be authentic. I got to know them, and they were involved even when we wrote the script.”

Mrunal Thakur in 'Love Sonia'.
Mrunal Thakur in 'Love Sonia'.

Joining the cast is newcomer Mrunal Thakur, who told SBS News she hopes her first film will help raise awareness of a widespread issue.

“I’m very happy with the fact that this is my first film, again it’s for a cause,” she said.

“My only intention is if people watch this film, and if one girl is saved, I think I’ve achieved what I wanted.”

The theme of this year’s film festival is ‘inclusion’, and many of the films tell the stories of marginalised communities.

Freida Pinto in Melbourne speaking about her latest film.
Freida Pinto in Melbourne speaking about her latest film.
SBS News

Ms Pinto believes it’s important to share these stories, and recognise commonalities.

“To be able to humanise these young women, who we call prostitutes, or sex workers, or sex slaves, and just make it: woman. That to me is very important,” she said.

Ms Pinto said there are many issues impacting Indian women, and said she felt disturbed when she read that an international poll by the Thompson Reuters Foundation had recorded India as the worst place to be a woman.

“It is the most horrible thing for an Indian woman to read, it’s very disturbing,” she said.

“There are things that are happening in India that are very regressive when it comes to women, but I also think we need to put some attention on things that are progressive, and encourage the younger generation.”

Film critic Rajeev Masand modern Indian cinema is exploring the complexities of some of these issues.

“Anyone who has been tracking Indian cinema will understand that the movies have moved beyond the cliché of the song and dance extravaganza,” he said.

“A lot of the new movies are reflecting themes and issues that are real.”

'Love Sonia' hopes to make more people aware of global sex trafficking.
'Love Sonia' hopes to make more people aware of global sex trafficking.

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