He was Prince Zuko in Manoj N Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender (2010) and recalls going to the sets on an off day to find a battle scene being filmed. “My army was in the field and I thought it was real cool,” Dev Patel reminisces. “I’d always wondered about films like Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter and though I was a tiny cog in the wheel, this film gave me a chance to move from the slums to a Hollywood biggie. It was a $150 million film, the amount spent on my clothes would have made a Slumdog Millioniare.”
More recently, the 20-year-old actor was in Jaipur and Udaipur, shooting The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Set in Bengaluru, it revolves around the inmates of a home for the elderly. “The Rambagh Palace was stunning, and so was the Lake Palace. I took a few boat rides and was dazzled by all the gold,” he grins.It was a thrill to be invited to the City Palace by the Maharaja. "Of course, it was because of my co-stars Bill Nighy, Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Still, it was amazing to see the horses, be greeted by bagpipes, watch fireworks light up the sky and a thousand candles inside the palace. It was like an otherworldly adventure, which took me back to a time when the king’s word was law," muses Patel.
He admits that he was recognised in Rajastan, even by rickshawallahs and paanwallahs. It surprised him till he learnt that Slumdog Millionaire had been dubbed in Hindi. “They’d speak to me in Hindi, but unfortunately I don’t speak the language,” he rues.
He didn’t catch Kaun Banega Crorepati Season 4 but says the same team worked to create a replica of the game show set for Slumdog Millionaire. “I spent weeks perched on the hot seat or chained to a chair in Irrfan’s (Khan) police station. As Danny (director Danny Boyle) said, it was an exercise in acting subtly,” he chuckles.
Given that Patel won the money and the girl too, wouldn’t he like to be on the hot seat for real? “No way!” he says. “I’m not half as intelligent as Jamal.” Well, he still won the girl, Frieda Pinto, for real? “Yeah,” he blushes. When will they be back on screen together? “Now that we are together, it would be funny doing a film, I’d giggle too much,” he admits.
At 17, he’d never been in love and to play the love-struck Jamal, he admits to imagining how Shah Rukh Khan would react. “I’m SRK’s biggest fan. I love his Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Devdas and My Name Is Khan,” he asserts. “But I don’t see myself in a regular Bollywood film. I can’t dance, it was enthusiasm that saw Jai ho…through. I don’t know Hindi and wouldn’t want my voice dubbed.”