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A slice of Pi

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Cinema Seventeen-year-old Shravanthi Sainath is excited about her role in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. She talks about about her first acting assignment

DREAM DEBUTShravanthi SainathPHOTO: S.S. Kumar
DREAM DEBUTShravanthi SainathPHOTO: S.S. Kumar

She was just like any other class 10 school girl in Chennai, preparing for her Board examination when she got a call that changed her life. And she wouldn’t know how exactly for two years after that.

When Ang Lee’s Life of Pi released on November 23 worldwide, Shravanthi Sainath, who turned 17 this month, made Chennai and SBOA School and Junior College proud. Shravanthi plays the love interest of the 17-year old hero of the film, ‘Pi’ Patel (played by a now 19-year-old Suraj Sharma).

All excited about getting a dream launch with none other than Ang Lee himself introducing her to the media in her hometown, Shravanthi can’t stop beaming about the journey of a lifetime.

“Two years ago, they were searching for a classical dancer in Chennai. They went to all classical dance schools and finally came to mine, Sridevi Nrityalaya run by Sheela Unnikrishnan. My dance school sent them my photos and those of a couple of other friends and I got selected for an audition in Chennai,” she recalls.

“They asked me to enact a scene and that was sent to New York. After that small audition, I waited for almost a month. Just when I thought everything was over, I suddenly heard from them. I had to go to Taiwan for a screen test. There they dressed me up as a Tamil girl from the Seventies. And then, they asked me to go back to Chennai saying that they would let me know. The same day I reached Chennai, they called me and said: You’re selected. You have to come to Puducherry for shooting. At that time I didn’t imagine this was such a big movie.”

Shravanthi spent two weeks in Puducherry. “I play a small but beautiful role in the movie. But the two weeks that I spent with the whole cast and crew of Life of Pi , I will cherish forever,” she says. For Shravanthi who aspired to be an actor, Ang Lee’s film was a big opening. “Ang Lee is a simple person. He had done in-depth study about classical dance and knew about mudras and movements. The first question he ever asked me was ‘Have you done a movie before? I said ‘No’. He said: ‘That’s great. Just follow what I tell you’.”

Bharatanatyam dancer Sreejit Krishna has choreographed the dance she has performed in the film. “Everyday I had dance practise. And Suraj had his mridangam practise”. But it wasn’t too difficult. Shravanthi after all, had been learning dance since the age of five.

After those two weeks in Puducherry, she got so busy with examinations and dance that she almost forgot about her dream shoot and the film she was a part of.

“I just moved on with life. Until recently, when my friend told me: ‘Hey, I saw you in a trailer and you didn’t even tell me you acted in a film!’ Then I looked up for the trailer on YouTube. I was excited although I just appear for a second in it. I then contacted David Lee, the producer, and he kept updating me about everything.”

The young dancer is now preparing for her class 12 Board exams. Once the word spread about her role in the film, she began to get offers to act. “I will take a decision after seeing the response to Life of Pi.

What do her parents have to say about her break?

“My father was always interested in this. My mother was more keen in my continuing dance but open to such opportunities. I’m lucky that I my parents are very encouraging. I’m very fortunate to be a part of the Life of Pi team.”

SUDHISH KAMATH

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