Getting the fitness bug in ‘Run Fat Boy Run’
Larger than life actor Harish Patel was always first choice for the role of Landlord – come- fitness guru ‘Mr Ghoshdashtidar’ in David ‘Friends’ Schwimmer’s directorial debut ‘Run Fat Boy Run’. The versatile actor, who has over 200 films to his name, stars alongside Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran and India De Beaufort in the hilarious comedy out on September 7th. Revealing why he was relieved the film’s title didn’t refer to him, we caught up with the actor in the run-up to the films nationwide release.
Harish, tell us a bit about your forthcoming film ‘Run, Fat Boy, Run’ and your role in it?
It’s a very sweet character, he’s like a coconut – hard on the outside but very sweet inside.
He doesn’t care if Dennis [Simon Pegg’s character] never pays his rent but he’s very strict with him he threatens to throw him out but he would never do it! And then he becomes his self-styled coach. It’s a very touching role, very human like.
How did you get involved in the film and what made you want to go for it?
It was very interesting, I had worked with David Schwimmer for a pilot show for NBC in 2004 called Nearly Nirvana, which unfortunately couldn’t go further and so he was making this project and someone said why not give Harish the role of Mr G and that’s how I got it, I jumped for the role. And I can’t say no to him, I have no choice.
Then, I was supposed to report for shooting but three days before Equity were not able to give me a visa because they said there are Asian actors here in the UK who could play the role. David said it was me or no one else, he wasn’t doing it with anyone else but I am actually a member of equity since 1993 because of Buddha of Suburbia, but to please Equity the taxi driver role was given to another British Asian actor.
What did you find most difficult about the role?
Riding the bike, the scooter! I don’t actually drive at all even back in Mumbai and driving a scooter is out of the question so when David [Schwimmer] asked me I said no! But I learnt it in Mumbai for 25 days or so from a mechanic. I was taking lessons from him but it was manual gear and when I got here I got a scooter with automatic gears and it takes off like an aeroplane! Once when we were shooting a scene I have to drive near Simon [Pegg] and David said “You have to be very careful not to hurt Simon or anyone”, and I said “Don’t tell me that, tell them that. I’m wearing a helmet so I don’t have to worry – warn the crowd ‘Harish is coming’”. You won’t see the fear in my face but it’s there!
We all know David Schwimmer from his ‘Friends’ days. What is he like to work with?
I liked working with him because he’s an actor and director so he understands. I was not worried about the performance as much as the scooter! But he used to make me relax laughing all the time like nothing is going to happen. Plus he knows what he wants, he has a very definite attitude of what is going to happen, what he wants from his actors and effect of the scene he wants from the actors. I never felt like I was working, I never knew we were finished until the wrap party – I was thinking ‘gosh! I was here living in London for two months already’, or even just when shooting goes over, never have I heard him raise his voice, he’s so calm and quiet.
One day we were filming at the council office – the scene with the wheel chair going down the stairs and in rehearsal I was coming up the stairs for my first mark and my shoelace was open and I bent to tie my shoelace and there was David already doing it!
I’ve worked in 200 films in Bombay but the kind of care and attention he gives his actors is amazing.
The way he shot – the quality, the kindness and affection that’s what’s reflected in the film also. That’s what I think will be reflected to the audience from the screen in the cinema.
I’m lucky all directors I have worked with are very good human beings, you feel that when you’re in the cinema watching the film I think.
You’ve got quite an impressive cast for the film. What was it like working with the likes of Simon Pegg, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton?
Simon Pegg is just lovely. The story is very nice the relationship he has come out of it’s beautiful. I don’t have scenes with Thandie or Hank but I was talking to them and it was very interesting listening to their approach.
And Dylan Moran?
We were always together; he acts so serious that it was difficult to control my laughter. When he says his lines I couldn’t look at him or I would start laughing. It was great. He had the full team laughing for about 10 minutes.
You play Simon Pegg’s landlord and trainer ‘Mr Ghoshdashtidar’. What a great name! Did any of the cast have problems pronouncing it?
It was like the scene we used in the film, anyone who can’t say it properly, I had to teach them: “Ghosh… no Ghoshdashtidar… oh forget it call me John!” so everyone was calling me Mr G.
‘Run, Fat Boy, Run’ is your first film in two years (Chicken Tikka Masala 2005). Was it a conscious decision to have that break?
Nobody offered me a film after that. I’d never say no, if the company is offering me a job but the fact is that it’s not that much of a decision. I’m a busy actor in Bombay but I’d like to do more films, I’d like to do an Italian film also – language is not a barrier.
You’ve an impressive list of Bollywood movies to your name. Are you surprised at how much the whole Bollywood scene has taken off in this country?
I’m not surprised actually that they are so popular. But there is nothing called ‘Bollywood’ in India, just the Indian film industry and then the Mumbai film industry.
Unfortunately some ‘Bollywood’ films for Western audiences don’t belong to India at all, certain names here are not from modern India at all, like Indian food here is for English people not Indian people and Chinese food is not what real Chinese people eat.
India has a very rich theatre tradition, but the film industry works on limited resources. Those cameras are what we have available and technically what they make is excellent, I challenge anyone to come and make a film with the cameras we have – they couldn’t do it!
What are you up to for the rest of 2007? Any movies on the horizon?
Actually I’m at the National Theatre currently doing a play called Rafta Rafta [with Meera Syal]. When I have time later in September I’m doing some films here, and in Bombay I have a series and there are some films in Canada and USA which my manager is looking after.
And there is another play I’m hoping to do at the National.
What I’m looking for is good work – maybe theatre or film or TV. It has to appeal like Run, Fat Boy, Run.
Tell our readers why they should go and watch ‘Run, Fat Boy, Run’
They should watch Run, Fat Boy, Run as it’s running into theatres!
It’s a film worth watching with the family they will laugh and have tears in their eyes and it’s worth spending the money. You will come out laughing and wanting to run!
Finally, have you started running since the film?
When David asked me to make the film I thought it was about me – the Fat Boy and then he said it wasn’t about me – that was good! I do my running on a treadmill I want to learn a good lesson from the film, I don’t want to get bigger but I don’t want to reduce Harish Patel!
Run, Fat Boy, Run is released across the UK by Entertainment Film Distributors on 7th September 2007