M! talks to Suraj Sharma
The 'Life of Pi' star on how things have changed for him after the Ang Lee film
He is on the cusp of global superstardom but Suraj Sharma is like any other teenager from Delhi who likes college, hanging out with friends and watching Bollywood releases. Not for one moment do you feel that this youngster has had an opportunity that millions across the world can only dream of – playing the title role in a film directed by an acclaimed Hollywood filmmaker, based on a Man Booker-prize winning novel, alongside National Award winning actors and that is already being touted as one of the contenders for the Oscars! Indeed, this 19-year-old St Stephenian’s life has undergone a 180-degree change, much like that of his eponymous character in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. It all started two years ago when Suraj accompanied his brother for the auditions of the film and ended up getting the role. Just for the record, Suraj beat 3,000 other contenders to play Pi, a precocious youngster who embraces Islam, Christianity and Hinduism in his spiritual quest only to have his faith shaken and then reaffirmed while surviving a shipwreck.
To cut a long story short, Suraj was called by the makers, was asked to go to Mumbai to meet Ang Lee and then to Taiwan to undergo intensive training. Today, Suraj is busy zipping across the world, attending world premieres and giving interviews to the international press. Yet, there is not a shade of self-importance in him; instead, there is just a quiet confidence and remarkable nonchalance about what has essentially been a life-altering experience. The film opened the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) where we caught up with the teen who has one of the most envious resumes in the film world currently…
Is this your first visit to Dubai?
Yes. But I unfortunately I can’t spend too much time here. I have to head off to Sydney.
Life of Pi is taking you around the world. Are you getting used to the starry life?
Yes, it’s been great! (laughs). You get to see places, meet different people… it’s a lot of fun.
You have just entered college. Why did you choose philosophy as a subject for graduation?
Two reasons – Life of Pi and Ang Lee! If you spend the amount of time that I did with Ang, you do get affected. He is pretty intense and philosophical himself (smiles). I guess I was deeply influenced by him. The subject just felt apt.
Recently there were reports of how you almost missed your exams at St Stephens. Has the imbroglio been sorted? (Suraj’s international tours had caused problems in his attendance and the authorities at the premier Delhi college almost barred him).
Yes, thankfully! I don’t know why they were so difficult. There were so many things going on that my schedules did go a bit haywire. It’s ok, it was something I had to deal with. I finally managed to give my exams.
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