A look at actor Dev Patel’s career chart in the Slumdog Millionaire film industry up to his birthday.
When I saw Dev Patel in his film debut, the surprise success Slumdog Millionaire– whose pre-release was so poorly rated it was supposed to go straight to DVD – I had no regard for him at all. Freida Pinto, who Dev dated after Slumdog Millionaire, stole every moment of Dev’s game time.
Dev was awkward and unimpressive in Danny Boyle’s overrated drama Chawl. And then, on top of the unimpressive screen presence, Dev continued to make all the bad movies, including M Night Shyamalan’s disastrous 3D. Airbenderfollowed by About the Cherry and The inner roadone worse than the other.
I thought that was the end of Patel’s cinematic journey. I was wrong. Shortly after these disasters, Dev (lovingly named by his mother after his favorite actor) was considered the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan in The man who knew infinity. I thought Patel, a Gujarati by birth, had the right Tamil accent. He also wore the dhoti better than Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas and Aamir Khan in Lagaan.
Patel owned the character with the same proud but humble authority that Ben Kingsley wielded over Gandhi. Patel’s Tamilian accent was neither exaggerated nor exhibited. The natural tone slips from time to time. But the stumbling position adds to the humanity of the character. Garth Davis’ Lion was the next giant step forward for Dev. Although child actor Sunny Pawar who played the younger version of Patel’s character stole the show, Dev was quite impressive as an adopted child from Australia returning to India in search of his roots. It was a Manmohan Desai plot disguised – very effectively, I might add – as a Bruce Beresford drama.
Dev was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor (I haven’t figured out yet how Dev was a supporting actor in Lion). But he lost to extremely worthy contender Aaron Taylor-Johnson in nocturnal animals. Lion was characterized by the same problem that Dev Patel encountered in his first film: the child actor Sunny Pawar who plays Saroo Brierley as a child is much more spontaneous and impactful than Dev Patel who takes over the role halfway through the film. By this time, little Pawar has already settled into the audience’s subconscious as Saroo’s soul. We are looking for the parents of little Pawar in the slums. Dev Patel just becomes the bearer, a gloriously engaging bearer no doubt, of hope. His timing was bad.
Luckily for Dev, all is well at the moment. His performance in the title role of The personal story of David Copperfield and as King Arthur’s nephew in green knight was the subject of great praise, although I must admit that a brown David Copperfield was hard for me to swallow. There is no doubt that Dev is stepping forward and is the most coveted Indian-born actor in America today, leaving his Slumdog Millionaire co-star Freida Pinto far behind.
Then Dev becomes a director with monkey man, a Netflix production in which Dev stars and also co-produces. The film was completed a year ago. There is no information about its release. Hopefully Dev can see his dream of becoming a director on screen soon. The slumboy is no longer falling asleep on the big screens.
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