He became a star with his debut film Slumdog Millionaire but British-Indian actor Dev Patel went through a period of struggle where he felt pigeon-holed as a performer until Lion came his way.
Directed by Garth Davis, the movie, based on a true story, is tipped to get nominated at the Oscars in January, and is up for contention at Monday’s Golden Globes.
Patel says he knew he had a great role the moment he read the script and jumped at the chance to play Saroo Brierley.
“The film has opened people to my potential. After Slumdog Millionaire, it was really hard for me to get quality work. You think it would be easy but it is actually quite a struggle. I felt pigeon-holed. But I kept working hard and have been patient for many years now. So, when a role like this came, I gave everything that I had to do justice to it. It feels really good when it is recognised,” Patel told PTI in an interview over phone from Los Angeles.
The actor is in LA to attend the Golden Globe Awards where he is nominated in the best supporting actor category. Nicole Kidman, who plays his Australian adoptive mother, is also nominated.
Patel, who prepared for eight months for the part, says playing Saroo was quite a transformative journey for him and helped him reconnect with his roots in India.
“I isolated myself from my normal reality. I travelled in trains across India, visited orphanages and met many wonderful people. It really changed me as a human being. This is why I love what we do. You can walk into someone else’s shoes and understand different perspectives on love, family and life. It made me a more conscious individual.”
He is also full of praise for Sunny Pawar, who plays his younger shelf in the movie.
Patel says Sunny, who had never faced camera before the movie, is “electrical and carries the first half.”
Before Lion, which releases in India on February 24, Patel’s most recognisable role was in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel. Patel, 26, says he is grateful for Marigold and actually fought to play the bumbling but well-meaning Sunny as the part was initially written for a middle-aged man.
“I am actually quite grateful to Marigold, that film changed my career. It was a small film that went on to make 150 million dollars. That story meant a lot to me as I fought to get it. It was initially written for a middle-aged man.”
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