Dev Patel is all of 18. And he’s Dev bhaiyya for all the six kids in the movie. In a tiny ante-room of a hotel, away from the madding conference hall, the kids hang on to sharp-blade shoulders while I ask:
Could you ever have expected your first movie to become an international event?
Never! Not even in the wildest of my dreams. (Smiles shyly) Need I say how happy I am? Actually translating the happiness into words is difficult. The success was unexpected and the trophies at the Globes the least expected by me. I value all of this so much. I’ve never been happier to be a Brit-Indian than today.
Did you have any reservations about doing the role whatsoever?
Hey, it was just about being part of a Danny Boyle project. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut. I was all of 17 when they auditioned me.. an absolute nobody whom they had faith in.
Don’t you think Freida Pinto has been getting more publicity than you?
No, of course not. Even if that was true, she deserves every bit of that fame. She introduced me to Bombay and helped me play Jamal. She was a great support on and off screen.
Is that why you’ve been calling her your soul mate?
Oh no! That’s a highly misinterpreted statement. I never said it that way.. neither did I mean to imply anything in any which way. She supported me during the film’s making. She’s a friend, not a soulmate.
What do your parents back home think of your performance?
They were quite anxious from the time I started working on the movie. Now, they are relieved.
Were you anxious, star struck or nervous before the Golden Globes were announced?
I was a mix of all of that and some more. I was star struck because I had grown up seeing those faces in the movies. I had loved watching the films of Tom Cruise, Leonard DiCapirio, so many. I was anxious because I didn’t know what would happen the next minute. Would I be able to handle the attention.. if any?
And did you?
I’m not so good at that but an efficient back-up team has kept me grounded. They haven’t let me pull off my roots and go ballistic. They’ve been extremely caring considering it’s my debut project and I am really young to handle so much media attention.
Have you seen any episodes of Kaun Banega Crorepati?
Yeah, I did. I saw Mr Amitabh Bachchan in it. He quite holds the show together. He was very confident as a host. Actually, so was Anil (Kapoor).
Your flawless British accent — while portraying a boy from the Bombay slums — has come in from sharp criticism.
(Chuckles) I put my hands up on that lady! Yeah, it is the only fault that you can probably spot. I couldn’t help it. I tried and tried really hard to get the Mumbai accent right. This city is a melting pot of different cultures.
So, there are just far too many accents.. one doesn’t know which is the right one to pick. And I didn’t really have great accent training. So, I couldn’t help sounding like Dev Patel from the UK.
Few know that you’ve also worked on the sitcom called Skins in Britain. Yeah, that’s correct. I was only 16 years old then. It was a youth-oriented show. I guess I suited their requirements. I’m quite proud of that series.
What’s your take on Bollywood?
Oh, I love the movies here. And I would just come back for any good work. I’m told that this industry is for good looking hunks. But I believe that there are fantastic character roles also which I may just come back for.
What about your studies?
I’ve quit studies long ago. I always wanted to be an actor. I want to pursue acting without any second thoughts. I don’t want to study now.
You haven’t told me anything about your parents.
I live with my mum and dad. Dad is an accountant while mum works for a day care centre.
You’re also into taekwondo it seems.
Yeah and I’ve won several belts for that. I could really handle action very well in the movies.
I’m a terrible dancer. In Slumdog Millionaire, I had to emote with my eyes and shake a leg at the end a bit.. so I passed muster. Ideally, to get the moves is easier than selling them to the audience. So, I can kick real hard but this Dev can’t dance.. (laughs) saala.