Dev Patel’s debut film ‘Monkey Man’ a crash course in multitasking

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 7:39 PM

By Hanna Rantala

LONDON (Reuters) – British actor Dev Patel makes his feature film directorial debut with “Monkey Man”, an action thriller he also co-wrote, produced and stars in.

A revenge tale set in a fictional Indian city, the film is inspired by the Hindu deity Hanuman, who takes the form of a monkey and symbolises strength and courage.

It sees Patel’s character Kid use his street smarts and fighting skills to take down the town’s powerful elite who caused him a childhood trauma and who take advantage of the poor and the vulnerable.

The script was some 12 years in the making, said Patel, 33. Once the film went into production in India, it was shut down by the COVID pandemic and the set eventually relocated to a small island in Indonesia.

“It was a very chaotic process. There’s just not enough hours in the day to do all of it,” said Patel, premiering the movie in London on Monday.

“The borders closed on us, so every tailor, lighting guy, cameraman, anyone that was off camera ended up getting in front of camera with a speaking part. It was just a process of force and adapting at every angle.”

The Oscar-nominated actor, known for “Lion” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, said he set out to make a movie that would combine his cinematic influences and upbringing, with social commentary woven into the story.

“I’m a huge fan of the action genre. I wanted to kind of do an ode to my love of that cinema, mixed with the Bollywood that I was exposed to as a kid,” he said.

“I was so fascinated by this Indian mythology my grandfather used to tell me as a child and I wanted to give it some social context, ground it in something plausible and real and relevant to today’s world. The film’s a sort of a Trojan Horse, so to speak.”

The film’s fast-paced, intense fight scenes took their toll on Patel’s body.

“I broke my foot, broke my hand, tore my shoulder, a few other things. But it’s all part and parcel of it,” said Patel, adding that his crew made t-shirts with a picture of the screw that was used to fix his broken hand during filming.

“They’re like, this is the screw that kept the production afloat,” he said.

“Monkey Man” opens in cinemas globally from April 3.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Editing by Michael Perry)