DEV Patel returns to our screens this month in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The Londoner takes his place amongst an all-star cast including Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Actor Bill Nighy and newcomer Tena Desae.
The film which tells the story of a group of British pensioners who abandon their homeland enticed by advertisements of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, a seemingly luxurious sanctuary for the elderly and beautiful in Jaipur India.
Despite the boasts of the hotel’s lavish brochure, this turns out to be the one-man operation of Sonny Kapoor, an endearingly ambitious youngster who nevertheless is in completely over his head.
The filmmakers knew the casting of Sonny – who comes up with the ingenious idea of “outsourcing British retirement to India” without anticipating the pitfalls – would be key to the story’s whole chemistry. After all it is only Sonny’s can-do attitude that keeps the residents from fleeing the moment they arrive!
The need for an actor with just the right blend of believable charisma and comic chops led to the casting of Patel, whose starring role in the international hit Slumdog Millionaire brought him to the attention of the world.
“Dev is a spectacular talent,” says Director John Madden.
“He’s a comic natural – a sort of Jacques Tati figure, with amazing physical presence and fantastic instincts.”
And it’s a sentiment shared by the great Judi Dench.
“He’s a born comedian, and he has the assurance of someone who has been doing this for a long, long time,” she says of Patel. “We were all bewitched by him.”
And what of his character ‘Sonny’? Patel reveals he was taken with his character’s contradictions.
“In a nutshell, Sonny is the most disorganized person you’ll ever meet in life, and at the same time, he is extremely eager to please,” he describes.
“He photo-shopped the brochure for the Marigold Hotel to make the place look idyllic, and now, he has to try to make the guests believe that it can become all that he has promised. At the same time, he is trying to persuade his very traditional mother that he can succeed. To complicate matters even further, he is in love with a modern girl his traditionalist mother doesn’t approve of.”
What makes Sonny’s hopes for the hotel more than just delusions of grandeur is that they are based on a very real dream– to turn his father’s failure into a meaningful achievement.
For Sonny, “there’s a strong emotional attachment for Sonny to the hotel because it is connected to his father, who was desperate for it to be a success, but who nevertheless failed, as he did in everything in his life,” Patel explains. “That’s why Sonny comes up with the idea of creating a place for old people that is beautiful and idyllic, even if that is not yet the reality.”
Patel also had a personal connection to the story. “My mother has actually worked as a caretaker for the elderly,” he notes, “and I was enticed by how vivid these characters are, by their sarcasm and their wisdom. I fell in love with the script because every character shines in his or her own different way and you believe in each of them.”
As for working with Dench, Smith, Wilkinson, Nighy, Wilton, Imrie and Pickup, he says: “It was phenomenal – and that’s an understatement. It was amazing for me just to watch them. I was nervous with this weighty cast, of course, but John gave me the confidence to be free. Even the smallest scenes were great lessons for me.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in cinema’s from 24 February 2012