"I was like, Mum, 'I didn't [get engaged] – trust me,' " the actor says, quashing widespread rumors that he and longtime girlfriend Freida Pinto plan to tie the knot. "Nothing's happened. Everything is fine. I'm just shooting a film."
But the buzz grew so strong, Patel's mother was forced to clear up rumors herself.
"My mum will go to work and [have to] explain to everyone why they have written that her son is going to get engaged," he tells PEOPLE, "and got a wedding ring, and how it's all not true."
What is true: Patel, 20, and Pinto, 25, met on the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 and have been dating ever since. And while they may not be walking down the aisle right now, their relationship is going strong.
"She's very inspiring to me and just great support," Patel says of his girlfriend. "She's a great friend and amazing."
Name-CallingDespite the speculation about his love life, the British star is thankful for all his good fortune – even if means being called a certain name for the immediate future.
"Everybody keeps on shouting 'slumdog' when I walk down the street," he says. "It's the nicest compliment. [That movie] was such an amazing experience and just a blessing."
His label may change given the actor's latest project, starring in M. Night Shyamalan's action-fantasy The Last Airbender, which opens Thursday. But the Hollywood lifestyle hasn't caught up to Patel who still loves going back to the U.K. for some TLC – and home-cooked meals.
"Every free time I get, Mum tells me I better get back home and eat some of her food," he says. "I don't mind at all. At home it just grounds me. All my local school friends are walking distance from my house."
"Sometimes I just need to go home to be normal," he says. "But of course," he jokes, "Mum says it's in bed at six."