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'How did you get rid of my mom?' asks Dev Patel whenever director Danny Boyle [Images] talks of separating him from his mother Anita Patel, temporarily though when Slumdog Millionaire [Images] was shot in Mumbai [Images] for over six months.
Boyle often looks, as he did at the New York premiere of the film, at producer Christian Colson. But Colson won't give out the secret.
"I really want to know how they managed it," says mama's boy who owes his first role in the TV series Skins to his mother. "My mother saw an advert for the Skins in a local paper (in London [Images]). I had a science exam but she said I could study for it on the way to the audition.'
Little did she know that he would be seen partly naked, drinking and having fun with girls in the hit series. Even then she was not put off. Like she told Evening Standard newspaper in London recently: 'He wasn't just a good kid at home eating chapattis... Even now British Asians come up to me and say: 'You're a legend for doing that'."
Boyle says keeping the mother away meant giving Dev, the London-raised actor who was 17 when he was cast in the film over a year ago, a chance to be his own person.
"We thought he won't be able to carry on the romantic scenes if his mother were around," Boyle said.
He discussed the issue in the 'Shooting Script' of the hit film which has been just published by Newmarket Press in America.
Slumdog is currently No 5 film in America, having jumped from 11th position, thanks to the 4 Golden Globes it won. It has grossed a healthy $35 million in North America, and $2.75 million in its first three days in the United Kingdom, not to forget the $3 million taken in Italy [Images].
'It's amazing to look at him (Dev) now at the press junkets," noted Boyle, whose 18-year-old daughter had brought Dev his attention. 'Dev looks so handsome, they (Fox Searchlight) dress him up a little bit but he was a kid, you know?'
When Dev did four or five auditions, Boyle says he was quite impressed and yet felt the actor wasn't giving his best. And that was because, Boyle suspects, his mother came for every single audition, 'I thought, how are we going to get rid of his mom? Serious romantic lead and he's got his mom attached to him.'
Boyle hastily adds that she is indeed a very nice woman, 'but he couldn't say anything, so it was up to me to separate them.'
And the separation meant that nearly a month Dev spent getting to know Mumbai, its streets, its people and its chaiwalas (he plays one in the film) before the shoot started was done mostly by himself. Of course there was no mom when the actual work on the film began.
Dev readily acknowledges that it (spending a month in Mumbai) was a brilliant suggestion by Boyle who even told Dev to observe people walk in Mumbai, and how different it is from how Londoners walk.
Mrs Patel, Dev tells us, is a big Bollywood fan and admires Anil Kapoor [Images] and Irrfan Khan [Images], the two key players in the film. She got to meet Kapoor at the film's London premiere.
Mrs Patel is still running the young actor's life.
'My mum is still nagging me to make my bed,' Dev recently told the Evening Standard.
'My sister and I annoy each other. That's what keeps me grounded�It's just when I go to work I'm treated as an adult.'
Patel, who grew up in Harrow, admirers his mother, a care worker and his father Raj, an IT consultant, for the love they have given him.
But he also cares for his independence.
Boyle and Colson guard the secret. But who doesn't want to know it? Certainly Dev also wants to know. And would we be surprised if Anita Patel also wants to know it?
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