He could hop on to a bus even today and no one would recognise him. Yet Britain-born Indian actor Dev Patel is tipped to scoop up an Oscar for his outstanding performance in his debut film Slumdog Millionaire.
"Oh, no! I'm not going to get an Oscar. I'm not even going to think about it. It is too mind-boggling," Dev told mirror.co.uk.
Directed by Danny Boyle, the underdog movie has been nominated for four Golden Globes as well as the prestigious Screenwriters Guild awards and critics say Dev is a good bet for the ultimate accolade for his performance, an Oscar.
Based on Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A, the movie about a young slum dweller winning the TV reality show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has opened to rapturous reviews in the US. Also starring Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and debutante Freida Pinto, the film is releasing in India on January 23.
Dev, 18, was crowned the most promising newcomer for his role in the film at the recent British Independent Film Awards (BIFA).
"I don't know if luck is on my side, but I do feel very lucky. Sir Ben Kingsley shook my hand, Sir Ian McKellen and James McAvoy were there. Before I had even laid hands on my first script, these people were making Oscar-worthy films and, here I was, sharing the same air! It was crazy. I just could not believe it. I was there with my mum and she was so proud," Dev said.
Dev was bitten by the acting bug when he played Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a musical production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in school. He was an instant success and received a little plaque for the best actor of the year at the age of 11.
However, his big break came with sitcom Skins, about a bunch of drug-taking, sex obsessed teenagers.
Dev says he was thoroughly "embarrassed" watching the series with his parents.
"It's not the sort of thing to sit down and watch with your parents. I made the mistake of watching it with mum and dad and I was literally buck-naked throughout the whole of the second series, which was mortifying and so embarrassing," he said.
"I'm still a baby in my parents' eyes and they were surprised that their little son was doing all these crazy scenes. They weren't at all angry as they know it's just acting - although mum did say, 'Don't bring that character home," he added.
Not many know that Boyle was looking for a skinny underdog to portray his perfect "loser" for the film and it was the director's 17-year-old daughter and Skins fan Caitlin, who suggested Dev to her dad.
As for real-life, Dev doesn't have any answers to what he plans to do next. School was put on hold and he isn't sure if he'll go back to pursue the A-levels.
Dev has two agents - one in Hollywood and one in London - but says "scripts aren't exactly flooding in yet".
However, as Slumdog Millionaire has yet to open in most parts of the world, Dev has been crisscrossing the Atlantic in recent months to promote the film like a seasoned old pro.