At 17, this Delhi boy beat over 3000 boys across the globe to bag the lead role in one of Hollywood's most anticipated movies, Life of Pi. And debutant actor Suraj Sharma, 19 now, is grateful to Oscar-winning director Ang Lee for casting him in the big sreen adaptation of author Yann Martel's Man Booker Prize winning novel of the same name.
"It was a life changing journey for me. When I was shooting, it was the most hardest and the most beautiful year of my life. Everything was so new and different and there was so much to learn. It completely changed who I am. I feel much older now and I can work hard and deal with responsibility. I took a little bit of Pi back with me and now it has just become a part of me. I turned 18 on set, so there was this whole technical thing that I turned from boy to man on sets," he says, adding praises for Lee.
Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi
"Ang and I share a very close relationship. He is like a guru or mentor to me. I feel indebted toward him. He became almost like a father figure to me," says the newcomer.
Oblivious of his relationship status, We ask him what does his beloved think about his role, and Sharma chuckles, "If I had a girlfriend, I would have been able to answer that question. I don't have one."
Everybody is his family though, is “really excited and nervous" and younger brother Sriharsh, who has done films such as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), is acting as his support system. Meanwhile, the teenager is keeping his "head down to focus" on big things.
"My brother was the first person one I went to after I got this because I didn't know how to exactly take this. He was extremely supportive. He has continuously been telling me to keep my head down and focus. It has really been helpful," said Sharma, who will make his big screen entry when Life of Pi hits the screens on Novemeber 23.
Sharma, who stays in North Campus, didn't let his studies suffer even amid busy training and shooting schedules in Taiwan, Los Angeles and New York. "I came back, gave my boards, cleared my 12th and scored 94%. Now I am in St Stephen's studying Philosophy," he says.
So does he bask in some extra attention at college thanks to his big achievement?
"Everybody is being nice to me. Mostly everybody wants to know what's the story and how has it shaped up," he says.
We guess it was in Taiwan that he also trained to shoot with a tiger for his character's journey in the film with a Bengal tiger?
"You know what there was no Tiger. I had to imagine it against the blue screen all the time. They gave me lot of videos of tigers in different moods. By the end of it I had created this image in my head on how tigers would react to certain things and that worked fine," he reveals.
Surprisingly for a first timer, the actor was not intimidated by Lee or the magnamity of what he had got into.
"It had never sunk in that I was working on this movie. Ang and the whole crew were very supportive. They would make me completely comfortable both otherwise and in front of the camera. I was never intimidated," says the boy, who returned from his Hollywood ordeal as a man.
As for the future, he is not sure if he wants to "act or not".
"I am just leaving that open. But I do know that I want to be in some way related to movies. My aim in life is to make movies," he says.
But any new offers in hand?
"No new offers have come my way as of now. I am pretty much excited about Life of Pi and if that translates to more offers then that will be great," he says.