Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire made Dev Patel an overnight global sensation. Such success seldom slips into the hands of an actor of Asian origin. But it looks like another Patel of British-Gujarati descent has arrived to give Dev a run for his money. Himesh Patel played Tanwar Masood in BBC’s very popular series East Enders for nine years. He is now making the leap into cinema with Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, a homage to the imperishable music of the Beatles, which opens on Friday in the UK.
And the early reviews are very encouraging. Writes the reviewer of Empire, “Patel, previously best known for his work on EastEnders, proves a real musical talent and a sure-footed leading man” Says the Guardian, “Himesh Patel ….steps up amiably and confidently to his starring role as the classic Richard Curtis lovably-hopeless-and-rubbish character.”
Yesterday is a fascinating what-if fantasy about everyone except one person on the planet forgetting all the songs of the Beatles. That person is played by Himesh. Boyle apparently thought of casting only Himesh Patel in the pivotal role. This is a big leap ahead for an actor of Indian origin. Priyanka Chopra, one of the biggest Indian names in Hollywood, is yet to play the central character in any of her international projects. The only Indian actors to play the central character in British/American films are Victor Bannerjee in David Lean’s A Passage To India and Dev Patel-Freida Pinto in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
Himesh Patel not only plays the central character in Yesterday, he also performs some of the Beatles classic songs including ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Let it Be’ in his own voice. In an interview with the Guardian Himesh Patel says, “It’s the sort of part I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to play but I just happened to be right for the role. It wasn’t written for someone of any specific ethnicity and we didn’t shoehorn it in afterwards. We need those kind of advances too, as well as deliberate steps forward like Black Panther, which was very consciously the first black superhero movie. My character’s background isn’t even mentioned, it’s just there as a statement of fact and that’s powerful in itself.”
About Indian actors breaking through into the international arena Himesh Patel in the same interview with the Guardian had this to say: “Riz Ahmed was in The Sisters Brothers, a period gold rush movie, and Dev Patel’s about to play David Copperfield. I’ve just filmed two things set in the 1860s: a film called The Aeronauts and a TV adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. These kinds of role wouldn’t have been open to people of our ethnicity a few years ago.”
More power to the brown brigade.