Most Indians would have forgotten actor Dev Patel
by now. Playing the central character, Jamal Malik, in Danny Boyle’s much appreciated and much reviled 2008 Slumdog Millionaire, Patel was a natural.
As a boy who grows up in the slums of Mumbai and meets two powerful men – Anil Kapoor’s quiz master and Irrfan Khan’s cynical cop – Malik is an epitome of strength and dignity. His love is Latika, essayed by Frieda Pinto
who reportedly is still seeing Patel.
But, while Pinto went on to garner international attention and acclaim with movies like Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna and Julian Schnabel’s Miral, Patel remained on the fringes of stardom.
Now, The Road Within – which premiered at the recent Los Angeles Film Festival – may well, after all these years, catapult Patel into the limelight.
Incidentally, Patel once again portrays a character who, like Malik, lives on the fringes of the society. If he was a slum-dweller in Boyle’s work, he is a patient of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in The Road Within.
Alex, and that is his name, is an inmate of a clinic who is forced to go on a road trip with Vincent (suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome) and his anorexic girlfriend, Marie. Vincent wants to immerse his mother’s ashes in the ocean, and when he and Marie steal a car from the clinic, Alex threatens to spill the beans and has to be kidnapped and taken along.
Patel was initially reluctant to essay Alex, but came around. “I have a knack for talking myself out of a good project,” Patel told the media after The Road Within opened. "You need so much time and commitment for a role like this to do it justice."
But Gren Wells was keen on casting the right people. She “stalked Dev until his manager let me sit down with him and convince him he could do Alex," Wells said.