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Ang Lee: People in India are really wonderful

Last updated on: October 30, 2012 16:52 IST

Ang Lee: People in India are really wonderful

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Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

It's difficult to imagine the soft-spoken Ang Lee as the director of such brilliant films like the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. 

The Academy award-winning director is presently in Mumbai to kickstart the promotions of his latest film, Life Of Pi, the trailers of which look fantastic. 

At a press conference held at PVR theatre, Juhu, a western suburb of Mumbai, Lee appeared calm, as he fielded questions from the media, with some help from Irrfan, who stars in the film. The rest of the cast -- Tabu, Adil Hussain and debutant Suraj Sharma -- were also present.


Image: Ang Lee
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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'I had a big crew of 700 working on the film, and many of them were from India'

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"I spent three weeks shooting (Life Of Pi) in Pondicherry and Munnar. I had a big crew of 700 working on the film, and many of them were from India," Lee tells us. "They were fast, spoke English and were very warm and friendly."

Lee claimed that his friends had warned him against shooting in India but he felt it was easy making movies here. "People told me shooting in India would not be easy. I have Indian friends in the film industry, so I got a lot of information before coming to India. The culture is very inspiring. What changed my preconceived notions about the country is that the people here are really wonderful," he said.


Image: Irrfan, Ang Lee, Tabu, Suraj Sharma
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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'I liked Tabu in Fanaa'

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Lee praised Irrfan Khan and Tabu and said it was a privilege working with them.

"I met Irrfan in New York and asked him if he could be part of the film. He liked the role and agreed. I have seen Tabu's work -- I had a glimpse of her film where she played a (Fanaa). I liked her in that," said the director who lists Sholay among his favourites.

The 58-year-old director claimed it was difficult to find the right actor to play the young Pi. It finally went to Suraj Sharma, who makes his acting debut here.

"The young Pi was the most difficult to cast because he carries most of the pictures. There's no six-eight-year old movie star in India, so I had an army of Indians who went to school to audition youngsters. We auditioned about 3,000 young men in the age group of 15 to 19. We narrowed them down to 12 and I met them in Mumbai. Eventually, I finalised on Suraj."


Image: Tabu, Ang Lee and Irrfan
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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'I have been very stressed for the last four years'

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If one has read the Yaan Martel book the film is based on, or seen the trailers, one will get a sense of how difficult the film must have been to make. For example, how does one shoot with a tiger and a human, stranded on a boat?

Lee lets us in on a secret: the tiger isn't real, it's animated.

And that made the shooting even tougher.

"Despite the slick special effects, the creation of a fake tiger and shooting underwater was the toughest part of making Life of Pi. It took me four years to make the film," Lee says, adding, "The book makes a philosophical point about theology and zoology. It examines illusions. To me, that was tough. How do you create illusion, especially with so much money? I'll be honest with you: I have been very stressed for the last four years!"

Life Of Pi will release in 3D on November 23 in India.


Image: Tabu and Manisha Koirala
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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