As the extended version of James Cameron’s Avatar hits theatres across India, Indian-origin actor Dileep Rao, who plays the pivotal role of Dr Max Patel, tells us that for a long time, he didn’t know what the new nine-minute footage consisted of.
Rao is only three films old, but has worked with Spiderman director Sam Raimi in Drag Me To Hell and Christopher Nolan in Inception, the biggest international blockbuster this year. He says, “Just like James Cameron didn’t reveal anything about the movie before its original release, he kept everything about the extended edition a secret too. I didn’t know if I’d have more scenes in the new movie!”
Recollecting his first meeting with Cameron, Rao laughs about how star-struck he was. “The very first time I met him after I was hired, I could only say ‘Hello’, because I couldn’t help thinking that he looked exactly like James Cameron!” he chuckles. “That happened with Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception too.”"But once you get to know them, you realise that they are all really great and generous people," he adds. "It humbles you to see how nice they are. I’ve tried to learn as much as possible from them."
The actor, who is one of the rare Indians to be cast in big-budget Hollywood films, takes pride in the fact that his role wasn’t written for a person of any specific ethnicity. “I’m very proud that I landed the role since there are not too many roles written specifically for Indians in Hollywood,” he says. “And since I’m an Indian, I got to pick the last name too!”
Rao is now penning a script, acting in a New York play, and selecting his next movie role. Ask him about Avatar 2, and he remains cryptic. “I am not supposed to talk about it,” he says.‘Max Patel wasn’t written for an Indian’