Freida Pinto and Dev Patel's "Amicable" Split Was My Parents' Divorce All Over Again
They were supposed to stay together.
When Slumdog Millionaire stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto started dating in 2008, I was as ecstatic as any 10-year-old discovering their new favorite celebrity couple. I loved the way the two, who met while filming the Oscar-winning film in 2008, looked together on the red carpet — they both were undeniably attractive, sure, but you could see in their body language and the way that they looked at each other that underneath it all, they were truly genuine friends.
In 2009, my mom and I watched them on the Oscars red carpet. I had always loved seeing the beautiful dresses and fanfare of Hollywood's biggest night, but there was something incredibly special about seeing two faces that looked not so different from mine on the most iconic red carpet of them all. I never consciously realized why I was drawn to them, or recognized my want to be seen and represented as a South Asian person, but I knew when I saw them I felt comfortable and at home. The love and adoration that I felt for them as a couple wasn't exclusive to just me — suddenly there was sustained paparazzi coverage of them jogging and out on dates. Everyone wanted to know how the Slumdog Millionaire couple was doing, whether Patel and Pinto welcomed that attention or not.
After I watched Skins UK, on which Patel played the lovably awkward Anwar, I became even more attached, and began to check on both Patel and Pinto's work and their whereabouts as a couple with greater frequency. They were steady and stable throughout my adolescence, and I believed their low-key lifestyle would give them the longevity that is so rare in celebrity couples.
And then, during my sophomore year of high school, came the break that I never saw coming.
Feelings of confusion and hurt came rushing in as I read headline after headline about Patel and Pinto's conscious uncoupling in 2014 after more than six years together. The breakup came out of left field for me, but one phrase stuck in my head from a 2017 post-breakup interview with Pinto:
"You can't share such a monumental shift in life, then not be friends," she told Weekend Magazine. "That would be the saddest thing ever." Their breakup was, as Weekend described it, "amicable."
It was that ubiquitous descriptor that stuck with me as I processed their breakup. It's a word I've always had a hard time understanding.
"Amicable" was often thrown around in reference to my parent's divorce. What seemed to be a decent marriage ended with a divorce so friendly that they shared the same lawyer, something family friends would point out often as a signifier of their respect for one another, as well as their maturity. And in fact, the similarities between my parents' relationship and Freida and Dev's are a little uncanny: Two Indian people, one raised in the West and the other in India, fall in love at a young age, and stay together for several years. Like Dev and Freida, the details of my parents' troubles were mostly under wraps and private.
But no relationship ends without pain, and though I saw my parents' smiles and genuine cheer at every holiday, every birthday, there was still so much unsaid. They put me first every time, but as I got older, I would see them look over at each other and feel just a bit of sadness while wondering what it would be like if everything had worked out. If things had been so amicable between them, I thought, why breakup at all? The divorce was so friendly, so "amicable," that I felt strange acknowledging how deeply painful it was for me — and, I'm sure, for them.
No one gets out of a relationship unscathed, especially a relationship that has taken up the larger portion of your 20s, a time when you're finding your place in the world. My parents married when my mom was 23 and my dad was 24, and while I am far off from anything of the sort as I stare down the same age my mom was when she went to Hyderabad, India to get married, I'm beginning to understand their story more.
Parents seem like celebrities when you're young; we regard them with the same kind of reverence. I saw my parents the way I had seen Patel and Pinto — as people on a pedestal, a constant in my life. It's strange to think about my parents as real people with mistakes and pain much like anybody else, but as I get closer to the ages they were when they got married and had me, they become more real to me. I can understand more of why they got married, why they got divorced, and why they kept the details of it all to themselves. And I've come to understand, just a bit, why they chose that word, amicable, to describe it all.
Breakups That Broke Us is a weekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.