Actor Dev Patel plays mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan in his latest film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, but the 25-year-old can't solve an equation to save his life.
"I was seriously, seriously terrible," he said in a phone conversation with HuffPost India from Panjim, Goa, where his film had its Asia premiere on Friday. "The irony is that my dad was an accountant."
The Man Who Knew Infinity opened the ongoing 46th International Film Festival Of India with a packed screening. For Indian audiences, Patel is still largely identified as Jamal Malik from the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2009), even though the British actor has appeared in six feature films and an Aaron Sorkin TV show (The Newsroom) since.
None of these films have replicated the success of his debut, with two of them — M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender (2010) and Neil Blomkamp's Chappie, which released earlier this year — having bombed rather spectacularly. Patel, however, is unfazed. "It's just one of those amazing moments in the career of a young actor, when your agent calls up to say that Neil Blomkamp wants to have a meeting," he said, adding that he absolutely loves the director's breakout film District 9. "Working with him and Die Antwoord [the South African rap-rave duo, who acted in the film] was a wicked experience, never mind what the critics felt."
Patel will be in India for a few more days, getting some much-needed 'downtime' in Mumbai. Commenting on the current state of Indian cinema, he said, "I respect Bollywood as a medium because it is escapism for the masses, and it's really heartening to see how technically wonderful they're becoming."
Does he think Bollywood needs to stick to the tried-and-tested song-and-dance format, then? "No, I feel that in today's world, it's impossible to ignore influences from different kinds of cinema and it's important to have that. There should be no boundaries in Indian cinema."
The Man Who Knew Infinity, directed by Matthew Brown, also stars Jeremy Irons and Devika Bhise.
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