Welcome to Hollywood, Dev. The Slumdog Millionaire star spoke this week to the UK’s Daily Mail about the predictably hackneyed roles he’s been offered since the movie’s Oscar-winning run in 2009. From the Mail:
‘Because Slumdog was such a big hit there was a lot of pressure in terms of what I did next,’ he says. ‘For my second film I wanted a role that would stretch me, but all I was getting offered were stereotypical parts like the goofy Indian sidekick.’
‘Asian actors tend not to be sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial or challenging,’ he says. ‘I’m likely to be offered the roles of a terrorist, cab driver and smart geek.
‘Actually, I’d love to play a terrorist, so long as the part gave me something to sink my teeth into. I want to show that I have versatility. You have to remember that before Slumdog, the last film about India that went big at the Oscars was Gandhi, as played by Ben Kingsley. The fact that me and Freida have any kind of platform in Hollywood is a big step forward.’
It’s a hopeful spin on an old problem, but it’s likely not going anyway anytime soon. Most tellingly, Patel’s biggest post-Slumdog role was his turn as the villain Zuko in M. Night Shyamalan’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. He was a last-minute replacement after public outcry over the whitewashing of the other protagonists in the film. Hatty Lee explored that other manifestation of Hollywood racism for ColorLines when the film came out in July.