The 7 Khoon Maaf child actor, 14-year-old Ayush Tandon, who plays the 10-year-old Pi in the Ang Lee film Life of Pi, on working with the Academy Award-winning director and his role in the opus.
HT: What was it like to work with an Oscar-winning director?
Ayush: I am thankful to Mr Lee (Ang Lee) for giving me the opportunity to evolve as an actor under his guidance. He comes across as a very normal person. Not for a second did he give you the feeling that he is an Academy Award-winning director. He is so loving, caring and humble, and he makes you so comfortable that you feel like you’ve known him for ages.
HT: Is he a hard taskmaster?
Ayush: Not at all. He understands the pulse of an actor very well. He asked me not to act, but to just be myself. He supported and guided me, telling me what to do and what not to do. He made me understand the character so well before I started shooting, and it went off smoothly. Of course, at times, he guided me through some nuances that made the scene completely different.
HT: You play the young Pi. What exactly is your role?
Ayush: My part is actually the character-building part of Pi. It shows how, in his childhood, he followed all religions and visited mosques and churches. Later in the film, that faith in God saves him from the tiger with which he has to share a raft in the middle of the deadly sea.
HT: Do you have a scene with a tiger in the film? Was it a real tiger?
Ayush: Yes, I have a scene with a tiger. That was the first shot I gave in the film. But I didn’t shoot with a real tiger. There is a scene where the tiger comes out of the cage and I have to react to it. Ang Sir gave me cues to the expressions I had to make in a different part of the scene, when the tiger is approaching me. It was very exciting. I had to shoot only my part and they shot the tiger separately. No one shot with a real tiger.
HT: What was it like to work with Irrfan and Tabu?
Ayush: Irrfan plays the 49-year-old Pi, so I didn’t have to act with him. But I have a small scene with Tabu. And Irrfan only has entry and exit scenes in the film. He’s the narrator, telling the story of his 227 days on a raft on the sea, together with a tiger.
HT: Do you have any other projects in hand?
Ayush: No. I am in grade nine right now. I’m concentrating on my studies.