The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens it’s doors to cinema audiences this week, with Dev Patel returning as owner/manager Sonny Kapoor, to welcome the ‘elderly and beautiful’ to his Jaipur property, including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie – and Richard Gere. With the first hotel going so well, Sonny has grand expansionist plans for a second hotel, but it’s making more claims on his time than he has available, considering his imminent marriage to the love of his life, Sunaina (Tina Desai).
Born in Harrow on 23rd April, 1990, his parents – Anita, a carer, and Raj, an IT Technician – both grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, but met in London. And it was mum who saw the casting ad for ‘Skins’ and took him to the audition, despite the fact that he had an exam the next day. The E4 teen drama was a huge hit and the character of Anwar was specifically written around Patel’s own personality. One of the fans of that show was Danny Boyle’s daughter, Caitlin. When her dad was looking around for a believable hero for Slumdog Millionaire, it was she who pointed him in Patel’s direction. Five auditions later, and Patel joined Boyle scouting for locations, researching his role by seeing for himself the Dharavi slums, working in a call centre for the day and washing dishes in a hotel.
The story of Jamal Malik, the boy from the slums of Mumbai who goes on to win the Indian version of ‘Who Wants To be A Millionaire’ was a worldwide hit and won the Oscar for Best Picture. Patel himself won numerous awards for his role, including a British Independent Film Award, plus SAG & BAFTA nominations. In 2009, he won the Critics Choice Award for Best Young Performer. However, his very first award came while he was still at school, at Longfield Middle, for his very first acting role, that of Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, for which he won Best Actor.
At just 24, Patel is steering a very successful career between film and TV. Alongside appearing in movies such as M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, and with James Franco and Heather Graham in About Cherry, he also appears as blogger Neil in HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’. For his role in Marigold Hotel, Patel had to take lessons in order to speak in the Indian-English accent of Sonny, his own being so strong. In an interview with the New York Times in 2012, he was asked if he minded playing the typical Indian role, with such a thick accent. He responded: “Not at all. I actually vied for the role! I get sent quite a lot of Indian-centric roles, and I am mindful about what I take on, but I found the character hilarious. Sonny Kapoor was originally written as a middle-aged portly guy, and I had to fight to get in the door because they thought I was too young. My first audition was over Skype, and I was only brought in when I did well on that.”
In his personal life, Patel is also a 1st Dan Black Belt in the martial art of Taekwon-do and has competed at international level, picking up the bronze medal at the 2004 AIMMA World Championships in Dublin. His six year relationship with his Slumdog co-star, Freida Pinto, ended in October last year. However, there’s plenty else happening. With The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel currently in cinemas, we’ll then see him later in the year in Neil Blomkamp’s sci-fi thriller Chappie, with Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, and is currently filming Lion, with Nicole Kidman, about a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost, far from home.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in UK cinemas now.