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Tears and action at the emotional SXSW premiere of Dev Patel's 'Monkey Man'

There was a roaring wave of applause as Dev Patel took the stage after the world premiere of “Monkey Man” at the Paramount Theatre late on Monday night. As the crowd came to its feet for a standing ovation, Patel turned away from the audience, wiping tears from his eyes with his sleeve.

Academy Award-nominated for 2016's "Lion," the actor had put his on-screen career largely on hold so he could co-write, direct, produce and star in his latest project. "Monkey Man" is an unexpectedly meditative and hallucinatory action tale that is deeply personal to Patel.

Asked how he felt in the moment, Patel gushed, “It’s f— overwhelming.”

Patel called up members of the cast, producers and his cinematographer, Sharone Meir, who all made their way from their seats to the stage. As they got settled and the audience continued its applause, Patel asked, “What happens now?”

Patel would go on to say that in the course of making the film, he broke his hand and foot, tore his shoulder and got an eye infection from dirty water on the floor of a bathroom where they were shooting a fight scene. Patel would rattle off numerous other production hardships, including a crane that broke so they simply tied the camera to a swinging rope. Some moments were filmed using Patel's own phone.

Set in a fictional city in India akin to Gotham City, "Monkey Man" builds from mythic elements: Patel plays a young man known only as Kid who wears a monkey mask — reminiscent of the legend of Hanuman — to get beaten down night after night in an underground fight ring. He gets a job washing dishes in an exclusive private club so that he can work his way closer to the city’s powerful elites and exact revenge for the brutal death of his mother.

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The film is being released next month by Universal Pictures, having initially been set up at Netflix. The project was saved in part through the intervention of Jordan Peele, who introduced Patel before the start of the screening.

Peele said, “It is a movie that proves that films can be all things. You can have a movie that tells an amazing story, that has meaning, that has depth, and you still can just kick a bunch of people's asses along the way.”

Of Patel, the "Nope" director added, “All I can say is I've never seen someone pour his heart, soul, body, mind and energy into a film — into a story — more than this man. And he's done it for us to enjoy this film tonight.”

Patel told the crowd that once his production was underway, “Everything that could have went wrong from then on went wrong. And then Jordan came along at the end. He picked this up from the ground. He brushed the dust off it, put it back on a mantelpiece and gave us this opportunity.”

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As a child, Patel saw Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon” on television: "I’d never seen anyone that looked slightly like me before," he recalled. "And this guy on the screen, he had the same pigment as me. And from that day on, I fell in love with action movies.”

Patel would go on to declare his affection for Indonesian and Korean action cinema, the comedies of Jim Carrey and Indian actor Johnny Lever, the “John Wick” films and classic Bollywood films beloved by his grandparents.

“I’m tipping my hat to so many things here,” Patel said.

Before "Monkey Man" began, Patel offered, “What you're going to see here is a guy that doesn't have a quip for every scenario — isn't the the heftiest dude in the room and doesn't look like he's going to win because he's an underdog. And that's what I've felt like my whole f— life."

In the irreverent spirit of SXSW, Patel said he hoped all would like his film. “And if you don't, blame Jordan — it's his fault."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.