Dev Patel might have shot for his debut movie (Slumdog Millionaire; 2008) in India, but he’s never really had any connect with the Indian film industry. He’s as much a Hollywood actor as any other 20-something acting talent there, what with films like The Last Airbender (2010), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and the popular TV series, The Newsroom (2012), to his credit.
Ahead of his next film, Chappie — which will have an India release — however, over a phone line from Berlin, Germany, Dev says he does care about how the Indian audience perceives his work; he even reveals that he’s had offers to act in Hindi films.
As we get talking, he says he hopes he “can make Indian audiences proud”. Ask the London-born actor why the perception of his work here matters to him, and he says, “I find India to be a great source of inspiration... It’s part of my culture and heritage, which I’m proud of.”Watch the trailer of his latest offering, below:
And while international projects have kept him busy so far, he reveals that Bollywood film-makers have indeed approached him in the past. Without naming who he’s been approached by — “it’s not respectful”, he feels — he says, “Yes, I have been approached by Indian film-makers. There have been two offers, actually. But, for me, it’s not about Bollywood or Hollywood. It’s about scripts, and if that appeals to me, then I take it up.” He says his interest lies in playing the “every man”, someone “who has to overcome a lot of adversities to achieve something”.
And those are precisely the kind of roles he’s done so far — “In Slumdog, my character was searching for the love of his life in a city with millions of people. In Marigold, it’s about a guy who is an optimist, and he’s got a crumbling hotel which he believes can be something great,” he says.
But even though Dev’s been fairly prolific — with 15 acting credits (according to IMDB) to his name in just six years — we wonder if he’s ever been troubled by the one issue that plagues most actors of Indian origin in the west — where appearance and colour stereotypes often limits the kind of work they get. Dev, citing his upcoming film, says, “My character’s name in Chappie is Deon Wilson. So I don’t know how it is typecast. I came into it, so it became a guy of Indian origin, because of the colour of my skin.”
Chatting about how Hollywood works differently, we also talk about a norm that’s caught on in the west – of conducting multiple screenings of a film before its actual release; this is done to gauge audience reactions and then make alterations, if needed. While there’s been some debate as to whether it takes away from a director’s original vision, Dev doesn’t agree: “All films are made to entertain, and they are made for the masses. You get to gauge audiences’ reactions and understand how to shape the film so it can be as universal as possible.”