Dev Patel on importance of Monkey Man’s trans representation: ‘An anthem for the underdogs’

Dev Patel smiling during a red carpet event at the Monkey Man premiere.

Dev Patel has spoken about the trans representation in his latest film, Monkey Man.

The action thriller, starring and directed by Patel, focuses on a poor young man surviving on the slim winnings of an underground fight club in which he competes while wearing a gorilla mask, all while plotting to take down the corrupt leaders who robbed him of his childhood.

The film was released in the UK last week and opened on Friday (5 April) in the US.

The main protagonist, Kid, joins a group of trans and gender-non-conforming characters to fight the elite oppressing them.

The film is an “anthem for the underdogs, the voiceless and the marginalised”, Patel told Variety.

The actor, who shot to fame in Skins alongside Nicholas Hoult in 2007 before starring in Oscar sensation Slumdog Millionaire, added: “Together, they wage this war for the good and the just, and I really wanted to include the Hijra community, the third gender in India.”

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The Hijra community is a society of intersex, trans and other third-gender groups who live across South Asia, largely removed from wider society. They have existed for more than 2,000 years.

Hijra societies follow a complex combination of rituals, and young people who join are initiated by a guru or teacher who teaches them about the community’s way of life.

A 2014 volume from the World Policy Journal estimated there to be at least 10 million Hijra people, including in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Patel said that it was important for him to represent this community as a form of solidarity.

“We should be fighting for [one another], not against [one another]. For me, it has become rigid over time. When you look at the old carvings in these temples in India, the freedom, the sexuality, all of it, the philosophy was so ahead of its time, I wanted to dive into it and make that the lore of the film.”

Responding to fans and cast members already calling for a sequel, Patel, who has also starred in Hotel Mumbai, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and in Aaron Sorkin’s hit TV drama The Newsroom, said he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

“I know this sounds like a cliché, but just to… birth this little thing, it’s been a huge undertaking,” he said. “This is a dream come true.”

Monkey Man is in cinemas now.