ASIAN

REPRESENTATION

SERIES

DEV PATEL

By Bhavya Sharma

Dev Patel is an English actor of Indian descent. In just a decade, the 30-year-old Patel has emerged as a full-blown movie star, delivering acclaimed performances in an impressive range of films and television shows. 

Prior to 2007, Dev Patel was just another London teenager, albeit one with a passion for acting and tae kwon-do. But after landing a role on the controversial television series “Skins” (E4, 2007-13), he caught the attention of director Danny Boyle, who was desperate for a non-traditional leading man of Indian descent for his new film. The picture, “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), was a charming comedy-drama about a young resident of the Mumbai slums who earns a shot at improving his life via the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Patel’s endearing performance helped to make the film a hit with festival audiences around the world; it also signaled the emergence of a comic talent whose full screen potential had yet to be tapped. Patel went on to star in the romantic comedy “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015) and its sequel “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015), indie drama “The Road Within” (2014) and Neill Blonkamp’s science fiction drama “Chappie” (2015), as well as taking on a supporting role in Aaron Sorkin’s cable news drama “The Newsroom” (HBO 2012-14). A starring role in biopic “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2016) was followed by a key supporting role in Garth Davis’ fact-based drama “Lion” (2016), for which Patel was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. 

Starting off, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ won eight Oscars and even helped Dev earn a name for himself. The protagonist of the movie, Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), is an 18-year old chaiwala (tea-preparer) who decides to enter ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ contest, all in order to get closer to finding his beloved, Latika (Freida Pinto). His answers for each question on the gameshow are mysteriously connected to his life experiences. On the eve of his final victory, he is tortured and questioned by the police to investigate whether he is cheating in some way. They watch the entire show from the previous night, interrogating him about how he knows the answers, and he takes them through his biography. He grew up in a slum, where his mother was killed in the Bombay riots, after which point he was brought into a gangster’s begging ring with his brother Salim and a friend, Latika. After escaping from this life, he has made his way in the city, cut off from everyone he knows and working in a call center. Jamal has a quiet confidence and a sense of his own destiny, and this calm faith is what leads him to victory ultimately. Growing up and watching this movie, it is an important memory as it was the first time I saw Asian representation in a Hollywood movie. With an all Asian cast, both onscreen and offscreen, the global hit helped inspire various other people and individuals with the ambition of becoming an actor to pursue a career in Hollywood. This movie marked an important day in cinema, the stereotypes and prejudices against Indians and their representation were officially destroyed and no longer valid.