Cinema

It’s Dev Patel everywhere

Dev Patel in Chappie Photo: Stephanie Blomkamp

Dev Patel in Chappie Photo: Stephanie Blomkamp  

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This Indian origin Brit actor has come a long way since Slumdog Millionaire. He is in cinemas now with sci-fi flick Chappie. Madhumitha Srinivasan catches up

Dev Patel has come a long way from when he first stormed into our hearts as the underdog Jamal Malik in Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. For starters, he definitely looks nothing like that lanky teenager any more. Now, with an impressive roster of films and a beard to boot, Dev is living the Hollywood dream.

He was recently seen on TV in the final season of the Golden Globe-nominated series The Newsroom, playing electronic media expert Neal Sampat. He will start shooting for Garth Davis’ upcoming film Lion, and has recently wrapped up indie film The Man Who Knew Infinity where he plays the lead opposite Jeremy Irons. He also plays the lead alongside veterans Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, whose sequel releases this year.

But on screens right now is sci-fi flick Chappie, where Dev stars with Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver in a role completely devoid of any Indian typecasting. It is as refreshing for him as it is for us. Director Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie tells the story of a young robot with an impressionable mind. Dev Patel plays techie Deon Wilson, Chappie’s ‘maker’. Excerpts from an interview:

With Chappie, would you say you have successfully broken the ‘Indian’ stereotype?

I hope so. It was truly an ‘everyman’ role. I play Deon Wilson. It’s a constant struggle and a constant objective to vary the roles I do.

Has dealing with the stereotyping been your biggest challenge yet ?

It’s not my biggest challenge but it’s something I consciously think about when picking films. Sometimes it is not as easy as saying ‘I can’t do that’; otherwise you just wouldn’t find work. Sometimes you take on certain roles and try to adapt within that stereotype. There are not many forward thinking characters written for us.

What’s your biggest challenge then?

Getting each character right and just trying to nail the diversity of the role. Each role is very different, from Marigold to Chappie. They’re all extremely different films.

How different was filming Chappie ?

It was actually an organic process. Despite being a sci-fi film, most of my scenes were with Sharlto Copley who plays the robot Chappie and who starred in Blomkamp’s District 9. All my fears of acting opposite a tennis ball didn’t come true. I was lucky enough to work with a great actor. He was in this grey suit and it was a real pleasure to act opposite him.

You have worked with many A-listers quite early in your career. Do you still get star -struck?

I am constantly star-struck, whether it’s in Marigold, where I worked with the most amazing cast of veterans — just having them all in one film was surreal. Again, in this film I have worked opposite Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver — absolute legends in the sci-fi field. To share the screen with them is a real honour. Every morning Hugh and I would be in the make-up trailer together; we’d be laughing and listening to music... that was fun. I remember I gave both of them The White Tiger, a book I love. They really enjoyed it. Both of them are fascinated by India.

You’ve played a techie more than once. Are you tech savvy in real life too?

Not at all! I am really bad with technology. I didn’t have Facebook, MySpace or Twitter — any of that stuff while growing up. I have a dated Blackberry and I don’t have any touchscreen gadgets. I like to keep it simple. It’s a shame nowadays you see so many people at dinner so consumed by their phones instead of connecting. People are even terrified to answer phone calls and feel safer texting — that’s a real shame. Face-to-face communication is really important.

What would you say is your USP?

I don’t quite know, to be honest. I couldn’t tell you. I am British. We are not good at that. We are quite good at self-deprecation.

Bollywood any time?

Never say never!

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2019 12:34:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/its-dev-patel-everywhere/article6993672.ece

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