A look at actor Dev Patel’s career graph in the film industry Slumdog Millionaire to now on his birthday.

When I saw Dev Patel in his film debut, the surprise hit Slumdog Millionaire—which pre-release rated so low it was supposed to go straight to DVD—I didn’t think much of him at all. Freida Pinto, whom Dev dated after Slumdog Millionaire, stole every moment of Dev’s playing time.

Dev was gauche and unimpressive in Danny Boyle’s overrated Chawl drama. And then on top of the unimpressive screen presence, Dev went on to do all the wrong films including the disastrous M Night Shyamalan’s 3D Air Bender, followed by About Cherry and The Road Within, one worse than the other.

I thought that was the end of Patel’s cinematic journey. I was wrong. Soon after these disasters, Dev (named lovingly by his Mom after her favourite actor) was seen as the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan in The Man Who Knew Infinity. I thought Patel, a Gujarati by birth, got the Tamil accent right. He also wore the dhoti better than Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas and Aamir Khan in Lagaan.

Patel owned the character with the same prideful yet humble authority as Ben Kingsley exercised on Gandhi. Patel’s Tamilian accent was neither exaggerated nor exhibited. The natural tone does slip off once in a while. But the stumbling stance adds to the humaneness of the character. Garth Davis’ Lion was the next giant step ahead for Dev. Although child actor Sunny Pawar who played the younger version of Patel’s character stole the show, Dev was impressive enough as an adopted child in Australia who returns to India looking for his roots. This was a Manmohan Desai plot masquerading—very effectively, I might add—as a Bruce Beresford drama.

Dev was nominated for the Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor(I am still to figure out how Dev was a supporting actor in Lion). But he lost to an extremely worthy contender Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Nocturnal Animals. The lion was characterized by the same problem that Dev Patel faced in his debut film: the child actor Sunny Pawar who plays Saroo Brierley as a child is far more spontaneous unrehearsed and impactful than Dev Patel who takes over the role-baton mid-way through the film. By then, little Pawar has already lodged himself in the audience’s subconscious as the soul of Saroo. We are looking for little Pawar’s parents in the slums. Dev Patel becomes just the carrier, a gloriously engaging carrier no doubt, of hope. His timing was wrong.

Fortunately for Dev, everything is going just right now. His performance in the title role of The Personal History Of David Copperfield and as King Arthur’s nephew in Green Knight has come in for a hefty encomium, although I must confess a brown David Copperfield was hard for me to swallow. There is no doubt that Dev is marching ahead and is today the most coveted actor of Indian origin in America, leaving his Slumdog Millionaire co-star Freida Pinto far behind.

Next, Dev turns director with Monkey Man, a Netflix production in which Dev plays the lead and also co-produces. The film was completed a year ago. There is no information on its release. Let’s hope Dev gets to see his dream of turning director soon on screen. The slumboy is no more slumming on big screens.

Read Also :

Will Smith in India, seeking spiritual succour

On Manoj Bajpayee’s birthday

Each of the women I encountered in Roar

By akagami