Dev Patel has said that he doesn’t feel “British enough to be fully British” and not “Indian enough to be fully Indian” on screen.
The actor, who first hit our screens as Anwar in the teen drama Skins, told The Guardian that after the success of Slumdog Millionaire, he would “wait for an Indian role to come by, where I could put on a thick accent” as “there wasn’t anything else, it was literally the cliches: goofy sidekick, taxi driver”. Patel described this cultural dysphoria in more detail, adding: “Sometimes I feel stuck in this cultural no-man’s land. I’m not British enough to be fully British, not Indian enough to be fully Indian.”
Patel’s co-star and ex-partner, Freida Pinto, also struggled against the film industry. He explained that Pinto was constantly being typecast as an “exotic beauty next to all these Caucasian leading men”. This all had a big impact on Patel, leading him to become “fixated” on the ethnicity of his characters.
His recent film, The Personal History of David Copperfield, was directed by Armando Iannucci. Patel recalls asking Ianucci: “Wait, so is his mum going to be brown? How are we going to talk about that?” Patel revealed that he felt very anxious about taking on the role, fearing that Iannucci would face a backlash for his “blind” casting of the film.
However, Patel feels optimistic about the film, saying that he believes it will introduce a whole new audience to Charles Dickens: “In past iterations, I haven’t seen myself represented on that screen. I definitely didn’t think it would appeal to me or speak to me, but Dickens is a truly universal story. I see Dickens on the streets every time I go to India, and it’s relevant to America too,” Patel, said, adding “I’m from North West London, and the idea that we’ve spun a version of this film that allows kids from there to find a face they can relate to is really exciting.”
Patel’s upcoming film The Green Knight has been pulled from its UK release due to concerns surrounding Covid-19. A new release date is yet to be confirmed.