Monkey Man: Dev Patel ‘wanted to Create Own Fresh World’

Dev Patel has moved on from portraying goofy characters and comedy sidekicks.

In his latest film Monkey Man, Dev has taken on multiple roles as the star, director, and producer, showcasing his talent and creativity in bringing to life a British Asian action hero.

However, he prefers not to have it associated with James Bond.

“It was disappointing to not see representation for fans of the genre,” shares the actor, who gained recognition for his performances in Lion and Slumdog Millionaire, during an interview with BBC Asian Network’s Nikita Kanda.

From Hollywood to Bollywood, through Hong Kong, he expresses his disappointment with the lack of relatable characters in action cinema.

“There was no representation of my existence, my identity, my duality of culture,” expresses Dev, who has Gujarati Indian heritage and grew up in London.

“I simply wanted to incorporate all of the things that I avoided during my childhood.”

Introducing Monkey Man, a gripping action thriller that takes you on a thrilling journey alongside an enigmatic hero known as ‘Kid’. Watch as he relentlessly pursues a dangerous organization that is responsible for the tragic loss of his mother.

“The film has a lot to say,” Dev states

Dev has dedicated an immense amount of time and effort to perfecting the script. He humorously mentions that he may have lost track of time during the 12-year process, as it consumed his every waking moment.

He characterizes production as a deceptive force – outwardly, it presents itself as an action film but “it carries significant messages”.

“It has a significant impact on politics and society. It’s a gripping film that explores the power of faith as a formidable weapon.

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It’s clear that it’s not attempting to emulate James Bond.

“I don’t want to be James Bond – I want to be Monkey Man,” Dev declares.

Ever since Daniel Craig stepped down as Bond in 2021, there has been a constant buzz surrounding the potential successor. Many have voiced the opinion that it is high time for a non-white actor to take on the iconic role of the British spy.

But Dev says with Monkey Man, he “wanted to create our own stories and our own fresh world”.

“I wanted to broaden our horizons so we’re not fighting over the same role.”

Monkey Man was recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, which Dev claims was “a lot”

He also expresses his optimism that the inclusion of a British Asian actor in an action film will pave the way for greater diversity in casting.

“When I began penning this, the only opportunities that came my way were to play the comedic sidekick or the character who hacks into the mainframe for the protagonist,” reveals Dev.

He began his career portraying the unfortunate Anwar in Channel 4’s teen drama Skins, and later appeared in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.

Only after his portrayal of Saroo in Lion, which earned him an Oscar nomination in 2016, did he finally feel liberated from those limiting stereotypes.

“That film was the first time I truly had the opportunity to express my soul on camera,” he expresses.

“It truly transformed my career and altered people’s perception of me from the goofy, awkward guy in Slumdog [Millionaire] and Skins.”

Monkey Man marked Dev’s directorial debut, showcasing his talent both behind and in front of the camera.

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“It was quite a tumultuous process,” he remarks, mentioning that his initial intention was solely to be the lead actor.

“But my main goal was to create a movie that would resonate with a younger audience,” he explains.

“And we went to great lengths to achieve it.”

It’s quite remarkable, considering the filming was significantly impacted by the pandemic and he even suffered a hand injury during the first action scene.

“Everything that could have possibly gone wrong, went wrong for me.”

It appears that Monkey Man has received a string of positive reviews and even received a standing ovation at an early SXSW screening before its UK release on Friday. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have caused much damage.

“I was fed up with the repetitive faces and recycled franchises,” Dev says.

“This is truly unique, a reflection of our rich cultural heritage, full of energy and I encourage everyone to experience it firsthand and show their support.”

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