‘Slumdog’ actress making three-week stop in Brandon
BRANDON — It was 82 degrees in Mumbai, India, on a recent Monday, and it was 12 degrees in Brandon, Vt. To say that Brandon is the polar opposite of Mumbai would be a pun and a truth.
So, why would a 21-year-old college student from Mumbai want to spend three weeks in Brandon?
“I’d never seen snow,” Tanvi Lonkar explained.
It has snowed several times since she arrived in Brandon, and Lonkar is thrilled.
Lonkar came to Brandon by way of WorkAway.com, an international web-based program that pairs people who want to work and see other parts of the world with hosts willing to put them up in exchange for work.
She is staying with Brandon resident and swing dance instructor David Allen, in exchange for helping him build a website. She is also working part-time at the Soundbite Café at the Compass Music Center.
Allen has hosted 10 previous WorkAway guests, and Lonkar said online reviews of Allen were so positive she chose to come to Brandon.
“I liked David and he got really good reviews,” Lonkar said during a recent interview at the café. “Texas and Kansas were the other options. It’s just a simple little thing I wanted to do.”
Lonkar did not come by way of Mumbai, but for her three-week holiday break at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga., where she is a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in art.
Oh, and in 2008, Lonkar was a child actor making her movie debut at age 13 in the Academy-Award winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” playing the orphan girl Latika.
Lonkar was one of three Indian actresses to play Latika, and was cast to play the teenage version of the character in between the youngest version, who was seven and played by Rubina Ali, and the oldest, played by Frieda Pinto.
“Slumdog Millionaire” won eight Oscars at the 2009 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Danny Boyle, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score.
But Lonkar has distanced herself from Hollywood and gone on with her life since those heady “Slumdog” days. She said she did two more films in India after that, but wanted to focus more on her education.
“I wanted to graduate from college, because that is more important to me,” she said. “There is plenty of time if I want to return to film. I don’t want to rush. I don’t have any acting plans, but if it happens, it happens.”
She ended up in Georgia after her cousin, who was working in Milledgeville, urged her to apply to the college there. She had been accepted to six other U.S. schools, but none had offered any scholarships, which she needed to help pay the costly out-of-state tuition. She applied to Georgia College and State University and was accepted.
Lonkar will graduate next year and intends to purse a master’s degree in Art Therapy, possibly in Europe.
As for the snow, Lonkar was in Boston for the mid-December storm and was thrilled.
“I had seen snow on mountains, but I had never experienced falling snow,” she said. “I loved it.”
She feels the same way about Brandon.
“I love it here,” she said, beaming. “Everybody here is so nice. Everybody in Vermont is so nice. It’s been great.”
Lonkar may do another WorkAway trip to Denmark next year.
Lonkar has been a dancer since she was a young girl. Now, thanks to Allen, she is adding swing dancing to her repertoire, which includes Indian classical, salsa and jazz.
“When I was 14 and doing all those interviews for ‘Slumdog.’ I used to tell everybody I wanted to be a pilot,” Lonkar said with a laugh. “It’s funny how things turn out.”