Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”

Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”

We waited six years for “Monkey Man”



Monkey Man is the highly anticipated directorial debut of Dev Patel, best known for his standout roles in the 2008’s Academy Award-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, and 2021’s critically acclaimed indie gem, The Green Knight. Not only did Patel take the helm of directing this ambitious project, he also produced and starred as its lead actor.


Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”


Originally announced in 2018, Monkey Man has been eagerly awaited by film enthusiasts worldwide for over six years. Patel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Angunawela and John Collee, has generated significant buzz with his vision for the film, which aims to inject the action genre with unique cultural flair and emotional depth. As Patel explained at the SXSW film festival in March 2024, “I think the action genre has sometimes been abused by the system. I wanted to give it real soul, real trauma, real pain, and I wanted to infuse it with a little bit of culture.”


However, the road to release has been anything but smooth. Production of the film faced multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted filming schedules and post-production work. Patel also sustained a broken bone from a hand injury while filming the very first action scene, necessitating the insertion of screws into his hand. Budget cuts and issues called for Patel to film some scenes through his personal iPhone (which made it to the film and were super cool by the way). These setbacks pushed the release date to 2024, much to the disappointment of the fans eagerly awaiting to see the film.


Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”


Monkey Man also became embroiled in controversy over its portrayal of contemporary India. Some critics accused the film of reinforcing negative stereotypes, arguing that its depiction of corruption and societal decay was exaggerated. Patel, in response, emphasized the film’s intent to shed light on real issues facing many in the country and how he aims to spark a conversation rather than perpetuate harmful tropes.


Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”


But despite all these challenges, the silver lining came when acclaimed horror director Jordan Peele—best known for directing 2017’s Get Out, 2019’s Us and 2022’s Nope—purchased the distribution rights and pivoted it to a theatrical output deal at Universal. Monkey Man was originally set up at Netflix, which took the film’s global rights for USD30 million.


Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”


Now let’s talk about the film’s story. Set against the urban backdrop of contemporary India, Monkey Man tells the gripping tale of a recently released ex-convict who seeks redemption and revenge in a society rife with corruption and greed. The story follows Kid (Dev Patel), who was orphaned as a child and has lived with the trauma of his mother's death at the hands of a corrupt police force led by Baba Shakti, a religious tyrant attempting to seize power and dispossess people of their land.



To survive on his own, Kid joins an underground fight club, adopting the moniker “Monkey Man,” inspired by the legend of Hanuman. He wears a gorilla mask night after night and is intentionally beaten by more popular fighters in exchange for money. Through intense and visceral action sequences, the film explores his journey as he confronts the forces that shaped his turbulent past and seeks to reclaim his future in a fractured world.


Monkey Man is an awesome tour de force that explores the themes of revenge, redemption and societal corruption, providing a refreshing critique on the rampant communism and fascism that the people are facing in India. It’s a narrative seldom seen by Western audiences. In contrast to the abundance of films by directors like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott, which often centers on privileged white characters (typically of Italian, Irish, American or British descent) dealing with heteronormative issues and first-world problems. Patel's film provides a much-needed perspective on the complex socio-political challenges faced by a group severely underrepresented in media.


Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”


One of the standout aspects of Monkey Man is its action sequences. Meticulously choreographed and executed, crafting memorable scenes that are definitely some of the most exhilarating moments in recent cinema. These sequences are not merely spectacle; they serve to advance the plot and deepen character development. Patel's commitment to authenticity in these scenes, often performing his own stunts, proves as a testament to his dedication and passion for this project.


Dev Patel Swings Into Directing: The Anticipation and Triumph of “Monkey Man”


Another stand out aspect of Monkey Man is its striking attempt at injecting Hinduism and mythology at the core of the story. By invoking the legend of Hanuman—one of the most beloved and known Hindu deities—as a metaphor that critiques Hindu nationalism, it does something special. Not to give too much away, but in the third act, another Hindu deity is introduced in the film. As Kid meets a group of trans women who find company in each other through their shared worship and upkeep of the temple of Ardhanarishvara,  a composite deity that combines the god Shiva and his consort, the goddess Parvati, in the physical form. This symbolizes the harmonious union of masculine and feminine energies. It provides an opportunity for trans women to have a powerful and meaningful representation in an action film of this caliber.


Despite the challenges and controversies faced along the way, the film stands as a highly empowering addition to the cinematic landscape. With its compelling narrative, powerful performances and thought-provoking themes, Monkey Man will definitely be a film that will leave a lasting impact on audiences and critics alike. Delivering the much needed diversity and inclusivity in the action film genre, Patel's transition from actor to director is shaping up to be a significant moment in his career and a promising journey for film enthusiasts to witness. 


Go watch Monkey Man in cinemas, out on May 15, 2024!



Words Charles Boswell

Art Alexandra Lara

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