Tag Archives: Dev Patel

Asians can only play terrorists or geeks, says Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel

This article gets at some core issues about the racial and ethnic stereotyping of Asians in films.  The only thing I would add is the stereotype of the spiritually wise Asian (Victor Wong in 3 Ninjas, Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Buddhists in Ace Ventura Pet Detective: When Nature Calls…..)  Expect a blog post soon about the Orientalism in Eat Pray Love.

Dev Patel in The Last Airbender, Photo by Paramount Pictures

By Anita Singh, The Daily Telegraph, link

Hollywood is institutionally racist, according to Dev Patel, the Slumdog Millionaire star, who claims Asian actors are limited to roles as terrorists, taxi drivers or geeks.

When the film about the Mumbai slums became the surprise hit of last year, winning eight Oscars, it was expected that Patel’s career would take off.

But the 20 year-old from Harrow, north-west London, has been frustrated by the lack of decent roles on offer and is currently jobless.

“Because Slumdog was such a big hit, there was a lot of pressure in terms of what I did next,” he said. “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. I’m likely to be offered the roles of a terrorist, cab driver and smart geek.

“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.”

Freida Pinto played Patel’s love interest in the film and is now his real girlfriend. The Indian-born former model has had more success than Patel, winning a role in Woody Allen’s latest film.

But he said he hoped to overcome any prejudice. “I’m buzzing with adrenaline and raring to go, but I have to be realistic. Being an Asian actor, it’s never going to be easy. Hopefully the industry is changing and the casting directors will be less focused on colour so that people like myself can get through the door.”

Patel was plucked from the relative obscurity of Channel 4’s teenage drama, Skins, to make his film debut in Slumdog Millionaire. Directed by Danny Boyle, it became a box office success and won the best picture Oscar.

The film Patel chose for his second role has been mired in accusations of racism. The Last Airbender is based on a children’s television cartoon in which the main characters are Asian. The pounds 100?million Hollywood adaptation, released in Britain this week, has white actors in the leading roles while the Asian actors – including Patel – are limited to playing villains.

When the film premiered in America last month, there were protests at the cinema.

The actor still lives at home with his parents and travels on public transport. He said: “One time I was on the Tube and I picked up a free newspaper. Inside was a big article with the headlines, ‘Dev Patel, the new rising star’ along with a picture of me. This woman got on and started reading the piece. She looked up at me and did a classic double take.”

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