Monkey Man and Dev Patel’s Grueling Journey to SXSW

When Dev Patel sought out on his ‘Lord of the Rings’ journey to bring Monkey Man to fruition, dide he have an idea of the amount of pain he as a filmmaker might endure. Probably not. The seed of inspiration for the film lies in the legend of Hanuman, an ancient Hindi God who is known for his perseverance, loyalty and dedication. For his directorial debut, Actor turned bad-ass filmmaker Dev Patel took the story of the legend, a story he heard from his grandfather and father and gave it a modern twist bringing the central character into the slums of India with this gritty action thriller about one man’s vengeance against the ruthless thugs who murdered his mother.

“This film was not going to see the light of day a few months ago and now we are here and people are cue-ing up.” – Dev Patel

Nearly a decade in the making, the plot was inspired by a chained monkey Dev Patel saw in India. The concept of Monkey Man eventually grew to encompass a self-inflicting fighter who uses the pain of getting pummeled in the ring as a source of punishment for not being good enough. As Patel, and Paul Angunawela hatched out the script, opportunities to shine light on the under-represented class of India including the Hijra community and the Untouchables became evident.

Dev Patel had such a connection to the script’s content and the vision of Monkey Man, that eventually Patel was reluctantly nudged into the Director’s seat for his feature debut.

For Monkey Man, Life Imitates Art

For better or worse, life began to imitate art for Dev Patel. First while scouting in one of the biggest slums in India, COVID hit. The crew was forced to abandon the project and the film reached it’s first death before being resurrected by Patel and the film’s producer Jomon Thomas who knew of a film studio in Indonesia open and available for shooting. Patel and the ‘Monkey Man’ film crew flew to Indonesia and the production reached it’s first resurrection.

Chaos ensued on the set. ‘Monkey Man’ lost a key player in the production designer who allegedly dropped out in fears of COVID. Actors were limited including stunt professionals who were recycled wearing wigs and such to disguise and differentiate. Props were limited as well including breakaway tables and the bat mobile-esque tuk tuk used in the potentially soon to be famous action sequence. The crew embraced Jugaaḍ during production, relying on resourcefulness and any means necessary.

In the legend, Hanuman jumps to close to the sun and is stricken by a lightning bolt causing Hanuman to fall to the earth, breaking his jaw. It seems the fates would bring such blow to Patel in the filming of ‘Monkey Man’ inflicted with a broken wrist and a torn shoulder while in production. Yet the show must go on.

After wrapping on the film, the hurdles were not over. ‘Monkey Man’ was dropped by Netflix at the 11th hour. Jordan Peele got word of the film and Monkeypaw Productions came on board and brought the film to Universal who also signed on.

Monkey Man World Premiere at SXSW

on March 11th, 2024, Dev Patel and the cast and crew of ‘Monkey Man’ arrived in Austin, Texas for the World Premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival. At the Q&A after the screening, Patel was visually overwhelmed with emotion. Like a marathon runner finally reaching the finish line, the exhaustion on Patel’s face was evident.

Monkey Man went on to win the Audience Award at the 2024 SXSW.

After it’s World Premiere at SXSW on March 11, Monkey Man hits theaters April 4th, 2024.

The cast of Monkey Man includes Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma, Sikandar Kher, Sobhita Dhulipala, Ashwini Kalsekar, Adithi Kalkunte, and Makarand Deshpande.

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