He became a star with his debut film Slumdog Millionaire but British-Indian actor Dev Patel went through a period of struggle where he felt pigeon-holed as a performer until Lion came his way.
Directed by Garth Davis, the true-life inspired movie is tipped to get nominated at the Oscars this year.
Patel says he knew he had a great role the moment he read the script and jumped at the chance to play Saroo Brierley. “The film has opened people to my potential.
After ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, it was really hard for me to get quality work. You think it would be easy but it is actually quite a struggle. I felt pigeon-holed. “But I kept working hard and have been patient for many years now. So, when a role like this came, I gave everything that I had to do justice to it. It feels really good when it is recognised,” Patel told PTI in an interview over the phone from Los Angeles.
The actor is in LA to attend the Golden Globe Awards tonight where he is nominated in the best supporting actor category. Actress Nicole Kidman, who plays his Australian adoptive mother, is also nominated. Patel, who prepared for eight months for the part, says playing Saroo was quite a transformative journey for him and helped him reconnect with his roots in India.
“I isolated myself from my normal reality. I travelled in trains across India, visited orphanages and met many wonderful people. It really changed me as a human being. “This is why I love what we do. You can walk into someone else’s shoes and understand different perspectives on love, family and life. It made me a more conscious individual.”
He is also full of praise for Sunny Pawar, who plays his younger shelf in the movie. Patel says Sunny, who had never faced camera before the movie, is “electrical and carries the first half.” Before Lion, which releases in India on February 24, Patel’s most recognisable role was in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel. Patel, 26, says he is grateful for “Marigold” and actually fought to play the bumbling but well-meaning Sunny as the part was initially written for a middle-aged man.
“I am actually quite grateful to ‘Marigold’, that film changed my career. It was a small film that went on to make 150 million dollars. That story meant a lot to me as I fought to get it. It was initially written for a middle-aged man.”
There were some misses along the way as well for Patel but the actor says it has been an interesting journey for him so far. “Every film may not work but you learn more from those which don’t work. But sometimes it is straining if you don’t find roles that challenge you and then it is also about maintaining some sort of integrity. I have tried to do that. It has been an interesting journey.”
Patel comes across as a really shy person but the actor says he has made his peace with the scrutiny that comes with the job.
“I flourish on a film’s set. I feel alive there but media, I can honestly say, has been a struggle for me for some time. But when you are talking about a film like this, it is so much easier. “I don’t wish to be a celebrity. I don’t have a social media account. I just want to be regarded as a good actor and artist,” says Dev Patel.