High profile British Indian actor Dev Patel has been selected for the prestigious Asia Game Changer award in recognition of him using celebrity to place a spotlight on India's poor.
The awards, now in their fourth year, recognize those making a transformative and positive difference for the future of Asia and the world.
This year's eight honorees include young woman Sonita Alizadeh using rap music to fight a trauma in Afghanistan; Jean Liu, a trailblazing CEO changing urban life in China, an environmentalist Leng Ouch from Cambodia. Aga Khan, spiritual leader to the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims, will receive the Asia Game Changer Lifetime Achievement Award, a media release said Tuesday.
"In a world of challenges, it is important to honor the dreamers and leaders, those who take action and those who inspire us to build a better world," said Asia Society president Josette Sheeran. Sheeran added.
Among other recipient of this year's award are Aisholpan Nurgaiv from Mongolia, nonprofit organization Sesame Workshop and musician Wu Tong from China. The awardees would be honored at the United Nations on November 1.
In less than a decade, the 26-year-old Patel has emerged as a full-blown movie star, delivering acclaimed performances in an impressive range of films and television shows, said the Asia Society in a media release. "But his work has done more than just entertain. It has also built bridges of understanding between India, a country so frequently reduced to stereotype, and audiences in the West," it said.
In Lion, based on a remarkable true story, Patel's Saroo is a carefree young man who becomes consumed with finding his birth mother in India, from whom he had accidentally separated as a child before being adopted by an Australian family.
The performance - which garnered Patel acting nominations from the Academy Awards and Golden Globes - was his most noteworthy since his star turn as Jamal Malik, a skinny teenager from the Mumbai slums on the cusp of striking it rich on a televised game show in 2008's sensational Slumdog Millionaire.
Both roles challenge audiences to view India's poor not as teeming, desperate masses but as individuals imbued with hopes, dreams, and opportunities, the media release said.
"I want the world to embrace stories from India," the British-born Patel has said. Indians, he has also noted, "are appreciative that we're spreading stories from their culture to an international audience."
According to Asia Society, Patel has also turned his attention and star power to philanthropy. His #lionheart campaign has raised over USD250,000 in support of India's millions of homeless children. And so an actor who refers to himself as just a "guy from London" has established lasting ties with his ancestral homeland, Asia Society said.
"They feel a strong ownership over me," Patel said, referring to the people of India. "Which is more than welcome in a big way."
Previous honorees include Pratham CEO Madhav Chavan, actor Aasif Mandvi, ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, Impact Investment Exchange Asia CEO Durreen Shanaz, as well as Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and education activist Malala Yousafzai.
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