Dev Patel: How one movie changed his life forever

Earlier this year, British actor Dev Patel amazed audiences worldwide with his portrayal of Saroo Brierly in soul-searching drama Lion.

The 26-year-old was Oscar-nominated and won a BAFTA for his performance alongside superstars Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara.

Dev Patel Lion film

When an actor rises to such prominence fans are often keen to know what kicked off their career.

Refinery 29 have created an excellent list of how the current generation of stars – including Shailene Woodley, Ellen Page and Lupita Nyong’o – got their start.

But today we’re focusing on Dev and the Academy Award-winning motion picture that launched his career – Slumdog Millionaire.

The film premiered in 2008, and back then, not many had heard of Patel outside of the UK.

The Londoner had become a local hit after starring in Channel 4’s critically-acclaimed teen drama Skins the year before. Skins proved to be a pivotal role in his acting career as the show received critical acclaim for diversity. 




And when he won the role of Jamal Malik, Dev was thrust into international superstardom. Slumdog Millionaire overcame tough competition to bag eight Oscars, four Golden Globes and seven BAFTAs as well as winning the hearts of critics and audiences all over the world.

The film revealed India’s impoverished regions and came at a pertinent time. The world was struck with the global financial crisis, and the rags-to-riches tale inspired and moved audiences.

While the screenplay focused on serious India issues, the use of internationally syndicated game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire allowed people from different economic backgrounds and cultures to find themselves on common ground.






According to this breakdown by Foxy, 15 million viewers tuned into the UK programme at the height of its popularity which led to numerous version around the world. The Telegraph reported the ABC’s American show went from fourth to first place on the network.  

And although the film was gruesome and harrowing viewing, the fictional tale of a young man from the slums of Mumbai competing for riches offered a glimmer of hope for cinema-goers. The possibility that Jamal could win the grand prize, despite all of his life’s obstacles, had everyone rooting for him.

Slumdog led Patel to new opportunities while still playing Anwar Kharral on Skins, joining the casts of large-scale theatrical releases The Last Airbender and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. After Skins ended in 2013, he returned to TV in Aaron Sorkin-penned, Emmy-winning The Newsroom. 

Then came his Oscar-nominated, BAFTA-winning performance in Lion. It was a role that he had been waiting to play since Slumdog. He tells Time Magazine, “It was a character that didn’t require me to play into a specific box. That’s what I’ve been waiting for, to go on a journey where I could dig deep inside a human being and get stuck in there.”

BAFTA-winner Dev Patel in Lion
BAFTA-winner Dev Patel in Lion
BAFTA-winner Dev Patel in Lion – Photo courtesy of Long Way Home Productions
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Despite Patel perfectly fitting the profile, he wanted to go through the audition process like everyone else, to prove to director Garth Davis that he was the best man for the part. His dedication and delivery proved he was more than worthy to play Saroo, leaving his fans wondering what extraordinary projects and performances he has in store for them this year.

Now, Patel has taken on the role of executive producer – as well as the character of Arjun – in his latest project Hotel Mumbai. which follows the devastating attacks on the city which took place in 2008.

Only time will tell if the movie will garner the same awards praise as his previous works. But if his progression since Slumdog is anything to go by, the political project – which co-stars Lone Ranger star Armie Hammer – has a bright future ahead.

 

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