A new 'Avatar' for actor with Karnataka roots

A new 'Avatar' for actor with Karnataka roots

in great company: Dileep Rao (R) in a scene from ‘Avatar’.

As the film is sweeping the global box office, Rao, son of an engineer-father and physicist-mother who hail originally from Karnataka, is basking in the glory of its success.

Los Angeles-born Rao plays Dr Max Patel, a conscientious scientist who lends a helping hand to Jack Sully, the film’s protagonist,  in the fight to protect the Na’vi community and its resources in the planet Pandora from the greedy humans. This is Rao’s big screen debut, but if anyone thinks debuting in a James Cameron film was big enough, wait a minute. The directors of his next two films are Sam Raimi of “Spider-Man” and Christopher Nolan of “The Dark Knight” and “Memento.”

In fact, he is the only actor of Indian origin who has got a chance to work with three biggest directors of Hollywood in his first three movies. While in Raimi’s horror flick “Drag Me to Hell,” Rao plays a leading role, in Nolan’s “Inception,” he stars along with Leonardo diCaprio and Ken Watanabe.

Quite naturally, Rao is on cloud nine. He told Deccan Herald from the US: “It is (the movie) a transporting, mesmerising film of epic proportions. You must see it to understand how incredible its visual power is and how surprisingly emotional the picture becomes.”

Rao, a fan of Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor, got the role through an audition and chose the surname “Patel” after Cameron asked him to pick a surname for himself.

“Cameron allowed me to choose the surname and I chose a common one that wouldn’t be hard to pronounce for the Western audience. We discussed the role in depth and worked it out on the set every day, but he gave me the room to bring my ideas into it,” says Rao.

Describing how he and the rest of the cast worked in the film, he says: “We just approached it with the clarity the team created.  It’s a whole new world in terms of what can be done and how it can fit together.  You have to be on your toes but the process is surprisingly clear.” Sharing screen space with legends like Sigourney Weaver has been quite an experience for the actor. “She is a gracious and brilliant actress of great experience. It’s a real lesson in how to do the job and be an artist,” he said.

Rao, whose “Drag Me to Hell” was screened at the  Cannes Film Festival, is now waiting for the release of Nolan’s film in mid-next year.

“All the three are visionary directors, each with a comprehensive grasp of the medium and the process. ..to have a great leader at the helm makes everyone’s job easier,” says Rao.

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