M.P. Correspondent / Mumbai

In his new film Monkey Man - which he starred in, directed and produced himself - Dev has created a British Asian action hero.

But he doesn't want it compared to James Bond.

"As a huge fan of the genre, I was so frustrated not to be represented," the actor, best known for his roles in Lion and Slumdog Millionaire.

From Hollywood to Bollywood, via Hong Kong, he says action cinema has skipped characters he could relate to.

There was nothing in between that represented my existence, my identity, my duality of culture," says Dev, who has Gujarati Indian heritage and grew up in London.

Dev's been working on the script for 12 years - "not that I'm counting," he says, adding that he became "a man possessed" as it took over his life.

He describes production as a "Trojan horse" - on the surface, it's an action film but "it has a lot to say".

"It's got a real political, social resonance. It's a revenge film about faith and how faith can be the most elegant weapon."

He hopes as well that seeing a British Asian in an action film will open the gate for a wider diversity in roles.

"When I started writing this, the only roles I was getting offered were to be the comedy sidekick or the guy that hacks the [computer] mainframe for the big, cool guy," says Dev.

He started his career playing the hapless Anwar in Channel 4's teen drama Skins, and then starred in 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.

It wasn't until his 2016 role as Saroo in Lion, for which he received an Oscar nomination, that he says he felt he could move away from those stereotypes.

"That film was the first time I really got to be soulful on camera," he says.

"It really changed my career and made people see me differently than that goofy, awkward dude and Slumdog [Millionaire] and Skins."

Monkey Man was Dev's directorial debut and the first time he's been behind the camera as well as in front of it.

"It was a very chaotic process," he says, adding he'd only originally planned to be the lead actor.

"But I just wanted to make a film that young 14-year-old Dev would be proud and excited to see," he says.

"And we kind of stopped at nothing to do it."

That's not an exaggeration, as filming was disrupted by the pandemic and he says he "broke my hand in the first action scene".

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