A decade ago, he shot to fame as the scrawny teenager in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. “I came from nowhere and pretty much made it on my own. I wasn’t the finest actor then — many would even label me terrible. I didn’t have the privilege of going to a big drama school. But I have been very lucky, although it is immense hard work which has kept luck from running out,” he says, speaking over the phone from LA. Dev, who has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for Lion at the Golden Globes (to take place today), says he was familiar with the film’s plot and was determined to get the role. It chronicles the real-life journey of a young boy who loses his way home, gets adopted by an Australian couple and finds his birth parents 20 years later with the aid of technology.
“When I heard they were making a film on that story, I knew I had to be in it. A staggering number of children go missing every year in India and though, this is a story about one of the lucky ones, I knew this was a life changing role. I can safely say Lion changed my life,” he adds.
Shooting the first scene was the most challenging bit. “It was the climax where the boy reunites with his mother. It was exhausting. Later, with Nicole (Kidman, co-star) around, it got better. She herself has adopted children and was able to bring in more authenticity to the intimate performance space we shared. I was nervous when we started off, but she is such a magnetic actor that the tense vibe normalised early on.” Being an Indian in Trump’s America is perceived tricky and when we ask Dev, he plays it safe by saying he feels empowered as a human being. “But at the same time, I am extremely curious about the time to come. I am lucky because I had the opportunity to grow up in London, which has played a key part in shaping my outlook. I have always felt connected to India, thanks to my parents and grandparents. Then I had the good fortune of shooting my films there, especially Lion. There is an undeniable numbness in the air (in US) and at such a time, the theme of this film — love — will put out an important message,” he says.