Suraj’s Pi factor: His eyes have it

Suraj’s Pi factor: His eyes have it

Suraj had the will,and apparently the “expressive eyes” and physicality required for the role of a young Indian boy,Pi Patel.

FOR the audition that won him the lead role in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi,over 3,000 other contenders,Suraj Sharma read out the ‘Survival Manual’ from Chapter 58,pages 166 and 167,of the book. On hindsight,it was almost prophetic.

“Always read instructions carefully. Do not drink urine. Or sea water. Or bird blood… The body can be a hero in battle… Ignorance is the worst doctor,while rest and sleep are the best nurses… Don’t let your morale flag. Be daunted,but not defeated. Remember: the spirit,above all else,counts. If you have the will to live,you will. Good Luck!” Suraj had the will,and apparently the “expressive eyes” and physicality required for the role of a young Indian boy,Pi Patel,who would become the victim of a shipwreck and spend 10 months on the sea in the company of a Bengal tiger,an orangutan and a hyena. The film is based on Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning book of the same name.

Auditions were held across the country for the role of Pi Patel,but it was the Delhi-based newcomer’s eyes — “of someone lost in imagination” — that fit the description,says The filmmakers also required that the boy not be too skinny as the character would be required to lose weight later,and the role in fact involves a 16-week weight loss programme. Pi had to be a person of “medium complexion” and a “ fairly well-developed physique”,and between 5’6” and 6’ tall.

For the role,Suraj will need to learn to speak “Indian-accented” English,French and Tamil,and will have to narrate short passages in Koranic Arabic and Sanskrit. In addition,Suraj will undergo rigorous training in acting,swimming,and drumming.


The training and shooting will commence in January next year in Taiwan and Puducherry,and the film is likely to be wrapped up by early 2012 and released the same year.

While Suraj lived with his family in Delhi’s C R Park till a few months ago,and studied at Bluebells School International,they have moved to Bengaluru. One of the reasons reportedly is that Suraj needs to learn to speak Tamil. School authorities say one of the parents,both of whom are academicians,was also transferred to Bengaluru recently.

Incidentally,Suraj isn’t the only star in the family. A few years ago,his younger brother Sriharsh had sang and emoted Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams,in the role of ‘Boy with Handkerchief’ in Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited.

Later,he acted in Sona Jain’s For Real,a drama that won him the best actor award at the Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore in December 2009.

The family is bound by the contract with Fox,which is producing the film,to not speak to the media. The casting for the father,a “typical businessman”,and the Gujarati “fair-skinned” mother,who is sensitive and artistic,is still on. Sonu Sood has been approached and said he was “keeping his fingers crossed”.

Fox India representatives could not be reached for comment.