Bangalore boy Vibish Sivakumar has no background in acting or theatre — a fact that Life of Pi’s director Ang Lee found hard to believe, writes SRAVASTI DATTA
Vibish Sivakumar appears unaffected by the hype surrounding the release of Life of Pi, an adaptation of Yann Martel’s book by the same name. Vibish plays Pi Patel’s elder brother in the film. The third year student at R.V. College of Engineering says that before Life of Pi happened, he would spend his days attending classes, playing football and hanging out with his friends.
“But I always wanted to do something productive,” he says. “One day, my friend and I were notified by a talent agent, about auditions for Life of Pi. We dared each other to attend it. And I finally did. I shot a basic script first, and then, every month, they called me for another shot. I was finally asked to fly down to Mumbai to meet the director. That was the first time I met Ang Lee.”
The reserved Vibish speaks favourably of Lee, who was happy with Vibish’s performance, despite him not being a trained actor. “He put me at ease immediately. He is also quite humble and grounded,” he says and continues, “He couldn’t believe that I had no previous experience in acting. He actually came up to me and commended me.”
When asked about his acting style, he says: “I prefer to stay true to the craft of acting and learn as much of it as I can.”
Although Vibish got a Hollywood break completely by chance, his mother, Sumathi Sivakumar, recalls an incident when Vibish was a child that showed signs of things to come. “He dressed himself up in a suit and asked his father what he could do to get into Hollywood.”
Vibish adds that he had many ambitions as a child, with becoming a pilot being the more recent one. The tech savvy Vibish has a creative side too. After shooting for Life of Pi, Vibish penned a 296-page film script.
“I need outlets for my creative energy. Writing this script helped me to be centred. It’s a dark story, revolving around two characters,” says Vibish. He is incidentally looking for takers for the script. “I was also trained in Carnatic music,” he reveals and then laughs and says, “but I was not allowed to sing after my voice cracked!”
Vibish now plans to take up acting professionally. After Life of Pi¸ he acted in a Prakash Belawadi-directed play The Life of Galileo. “It was the first time I did professional theatre.” He says that acting can get a bit too technical. “Remembering lines and expressing raw emotions at the same time are some of the challenges.” But Vibish likes to be as natural as possible.
“While I was acting in Life of Pi, I did what felt right. I had a train of thought and was true to that.” Vibish attended a short acting course at the New York Film Academy. “The experience was rewarding as the Institute is culturally diverse.” Be that as it may, Vibish, for his performance, drew from his everyday experiences. “If you are over trained, it is hard to break the mould.”
How, then, does an actor portray different characters? “I believe in the power of energy. It is an important aspect to acting too. For example, if you want to express sadness you need to get yourself to a lower energy.”
Vibish says that many consider cinema an escape from reality, though he doesn’t quite agree. “The power of cinema is in evoking empathy. Films should be made as close to reality as possible. Creativity is how you view the world. Art is an expression of the worlds we live inside our heads.”