Dev Patel’s latest achievement includes being a 2017 Asia Society Game Changers honoree. For the last four years, Asia Society awards those who are making an instrumental and transformative change for countries in Asia and around the world. Patel’s win comes on the heels of his Oscar-nominated film, “Lion,” which has been the driving force behind his campaign #Lionheart.
In the film, based on a true story, he plays Saroo Brierley. Saroo was separated from his brother as a 5-year-old boy and ended up in the big city of Kolkata, where he faced lots of hardships before getting into an orphanage and then being adopted by an Australian couple. In his 20’s, he used Google Earth to locate his village and reunite with his family.
Unfortunately, most of the 11 million children who go missing in India each year meet a fate that’s way worse. Through this campaign, the producers of the movie, Patel, and The Charity Network have raised over $250k in support of homeless children in India. It’s no surprise that Patel was chosen to be honored for using his star-power to help all these children.
At the panel with the rest of the inspiring honorees, Patel spoke about how he knew he had to be an actor in the first place. It’s all thanks to Bruce Lee, one of the few Asians he saw on-screen while growing up. “He didn’t die in the end,” Patel said. He fell in love with the escapism of cinema.
The other big influence for the actor? Tennis player Roger Federer, and more specifically, something Federer said in an interview: having the vision to see an obstacle as an opportunity. As an immigrant or a minority, it’s basically our motto already, anyway!
As for the representation of South Asian-Americans and how it’s been changing with times, Patel recounts how he refused to play the stereotypical parts of a taxi driver or a terrorist. Thankfully, all of this is changing slowly. “It’s important that we educate the world through our art,” Patel said. “If I can play a role like that and show the gray areas, show the parts of the human psyche we are not aware of, we can break down the broad strokes we keep painting and get to the core of some of these issues.”
He cites films like 2017’s Kumail Nanjiani-starrer “The Big Sick” to show to the world, and especially to the Hollywood studios, that Asians are bankable lead actors. We completely agree.
Most importantly, he ended his talk on the panel to emphasize the importance of the Asia Society and these awards, giving a platform to game-changing and influential people to share their stories and inspire future generations.
Patel is referring to the other honorees with whom he shared the stage: Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghani rapper who went viral because of her music about social issues plaguing the country, specifically child marriage, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 15-year-old brave girl and Eagle huntress from Mongolia, Leng Ouch, an environmentalist in Cambodia who risks his life to expose the corrupt government and save the forests in his country, Wu Tong, a famed Chinese musician combining it with his skills of playing many instruments and American music, Sherrie Westin, who represented the Sesame Workshop for taking “Sesame Street” across the globe and through muppets, showcasing national issues in countries like India, Afghanistan, Africa.
Kudos to Asia Society for recognizing the hard work and impact of these individuals and shining a bright light on Asian-Americans in mainstream media.
Patel, who gained fame with movies roles in “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “The Man who knew Infinity,” and HBO’s “The Newsroom,” will next be seen in “Hotel Mumbai,” based on the vicious 26/11 terror attacks.
Here’s the full panel for you to enjoy: