In 2018, it was announced that Dev Patel would be making his directorial debut with his self-written action thriller Monkey Man. The news came eight years after, in an interview with Daily Mail, Patel had vented his frustrations about institutional racism in the entertainment industry. After he starred in Slumdog Millionaire and gained massive praise for his performance, he had a rough time finding another suitable role. He stated “Asian actors tend to not be sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial or challenging… I am more likely to be offered the roles of terrorist, cab driver, and smart geek.” 

In an interview, Monkey Man leading actress, Sobhita Dhulipala, praised Patel and revealed that he had been working on the script for around eight years, starting just a little bit after his debut film Slumdog Millionaire was released. When connecting all the dots, one can see that Patel has a deep passion for acting, alongside his wish for representation in the film industry. Instead of waiting for things to change he decided to carve a new path for himself and other underrepresented individuals in the industry. EnVi presents a brief timeline of Patel’s career leading up to his long-awaited directorial debut! 

Patel’s Career

Patel’s first acting gig took place in 2007 with British teen series, Skins. He auditioned for a role in the series in 2006 after his mother saw a casting ad in Metro newspaper. Patel played the role of Anwar Kharral, a Muslim, Pakistani teen, who does not follow all the rules of his religion. The character, who was partially based on Patel’s personality, appeared in two seasons of the show. 

Before his role in Skins, Patel had never received formal acting training and had only participated in school dramas. His lack of professional experience did not define him, as it was revealed that a GCSE examiner was brought to tears by his performance portraying a student who was in the Beslan school siege.  

In 2008, Patel made his film debut with a lead role in Slumdog Millionaire. The film centers on Jamal Malik, an impoverished 18-year-old boy who gets the chance to participate on Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He defies the odds and makes it to the final question, which alerts the attention of the local police. They believe he is cheating and he is taken in for heavy questioning and torture. He proves himself by recounting his childhood experiences. 

In 2017, he became the third actor of Indian descent to receive an Oscar nomination. He received a nomination for his performance in the 2016 biographical film, Lion where he portrayed Saroo Brierley. The film tells the story of Brierley, who was separated from his family and placed in an orphanage where an Australian couple adopted him. 25 years later, memories from his past come flooding in, and he starts the search for the family he almost forgot. 

Monkey Man

Monkey Man follows Kid (Dev Patel), a man who works in an underground fight club. Each night he dawns a gorilla mask and is beaten senseless by stronger fighters just so he can make money to survive. Kid seeks revenge against the elite who killed his mother in the past and continues to control those who are poor and powerless.  

The film is inspired by the legend of Hanuman, a Hindu God who is half-monkey and half-human. Hanuman was a mischievous child who was cursed to forget his eight powers until adulthood. 

Aside from Patel, the film stars Sharito Copley, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhulipala, Sikandar Kher, Vipin Sharma, Ashwini Kalsekar, Adithi Kalkunte, and Makarand Deshpande. 

Release Date 

Back in 2021, Netflix offered an estimated $30 million to acquire the rights to the film. After seeing the film, director Jordan Peele acquired it under his production company, MonkeyPaw Productions. Peele is known for directing and writing films like Get Out, Us, and most recently Nope

The world premiere for the film took place on March 11 at the SXSW film festival and it is set to premiere in the United States on April 5. 

Patel received a standing ovation at the SXSW film festival and the film got 100% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes

Interested in reading about another director making waves in the industry? Check out this article on Wong Kar Wai’s First TV Show here!