Since his movie debut in 2008 in “Slumdog Millionaire” the 25-year-old Dev Patel has been picked to play the role of the Math genius Ramanujam in a new film on the life of the Indian legendary. Patel’s latest film “The Man Who Knew Infinity“, based on the life of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, was screened at the International Film Festival of India in Goa last month.
In a phone interview with Reuters, Patel spoke about his role in the film, how “Slumdog Millionaire” changed his life and why he wishes people were color blind. He said, “It’s interesting because there is no real footage or sound clippings of him. So, the element of mimicry is not there. In a way, that’s quite freeing for a performer. We did do research though, and I read the book that the film is based on. I worked on my accent a lot and the main thing was to get the restraint and resilience that he had about him. He probably experienced a great deal of prejudice, especially in Cambridge. I wanted to capture that.”
As per Patel, the director had the script with him for nine years. I worked on it as well with him. We worked on trying to flesh out the two characters. The masses wouldn’t really connect with the complex mathematics of it all, so the idea was to bring the humans behind the maths forward. And two very different human beings: man from middle-class India – a poor clerk, and one of the greatest mathematicians in Britain who was an emotionally stunted human being and had to care for this young man. It was two worlds colliding together. Jeremy (Irons) attached himself to the film after I did, and the rest of the cast just fell in place.
The Young Patel, who had shot to fame, with his role in Slum Dog Millionaire, says, “It did make my career, there’s no two ways about it. It put me on the map and opened the doors to India for the West. Now there is a renewed interest in India and story-telling from here in the West. I am one of the actors who have been able to enjoy the benefits of that.”
The 25 year-old says, “I have come to embrace my heritage and I feel lucky that it has given me such a uniqueness in the industry. I feel lucky that I can bring stories from culture to the world. On the other hand, sometimes you wish people could be colour blind and you could be play an average Joe, no matter what his name is. That is changing though, slowly.
“Hollywood is becoming very diverse. At the end of the day, most of the time, the best actor will get the job. My focus is on not forcing people to cast me because I am brown … but because I am talented.” According to Dev, “There are already so many amazing actors in Bollywood, and I don’t think they are starving for talent there. I don’t know if I quite pass the muster there or not.”