How did the project come about?
My agent told me that David O Russell wanted to get in touch on Skype for an audition. I was in a village near Jodhpur and turned it upside to arrange for Skype but there was a sound mess up. We tried to Skype again when I was in Toronto film festival for my film Breakaway. There was a technical problem there too. David then asked me to send the audition on tape. There was a Bangladeshi room service guy who recorded me on his Iphone and I sent that to the casting director.
What made you pick the film?
Russell and De Niro. I had recently seen Russell's The Fighter and had been totally bowled over. I would have agreed to just stand next to Rober De Niro in any film. I don't take myself so seriously sometime. I did one scene with Woody Allen in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and just one scene in Lust Caution for Ang Lee.
What is the film about?
The film is based on a book by Matthew Quick. Its not a film with an Indian background like Bend It Like Beckham or Slumdog Millionaire. It is mainstream American film from the makers of Milk and American Beauty.
What's your role in the film?
I play Bradley Cooper's therapist. I am called Dr Cliff Patel. I have got top billing in a cast which, besides Cooper, consists of Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Stiles and Chris Tucker
How crucial is your role to the film?
I am an integral part of the story. My presence is there in a lot of places. I am part of a crucial dramatic scene with all major members of the cast. At a turning point in the film my character gets the maximum laughs.
Are you happy with the way your character has shaped up?
After 450 films I needed something like this. I know the film will give me respectability and great visibility. It is an A lister. But to say I'll take Hollywood by storm is being idiotic.
You haven't spoken much about the film...
I did not want to overplay it to disappoint audience later. I wanted to be quiet about it till I saw the final film and my own work in it.
And what was your response?
It's not about an Indian actor also performing in Hollywood. Its about doing India proud. It doesn't stereotype Indians. I didn't have to speak with a certain accent.
Where and when did you shoot? When will the film release?
We shot in Philadelphia for five weeks same time last year, in September-October. It opens in the USA on November 21 and will come to India two-four weeks later.
How is Russell as a director? And De Niro?
David is unbelievable. He improvises on the sets, keeps the actors on the edge. The film is vintage De Niro. Not the Meet The Fockers but how we have originally known him. I used to be on the sets even when I was needed just to see him shoot.
Shorter, edited interview appears in print