Bollywood fanatics aside, chances are the average U.S. moviegoer has never heard of any stars from the Indian film industry. That could change, however, now that filmmaker Ang Lee is courting several big Bollywood names as potential stars for his upcoming cinematic adaptation, Life of Pi.
Actress Tabu is rumored to have already signed on for Lee's project, which will be shot in 3D, while fellow Bollywood thespians Sushant Singh and Sonu Sood are both up for the same role - the father of 16 year-old protagonist Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel (newcomer Suraj Sharma).
Times of India broke the story concerning Lee's plans for Life of Pi to feature Bollywood types, who may be a bit more interested in joining a Hollywood production after the success of Danny Boyle's Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire (which ironically starred London-born actor Dev Patel). Even though Pi will be the sole human character onscreen for large portions of Life of Pi, the film could be a stepping-stone for established Indian performers interested in snagging a role in another big-budget Hollywood production.
No word yet on whether Life of Pi will primarily feature characters speaking in English or will essentially be a heavily subtitled, foreign-language movie. Lee generally strives for authenticity in his films (though his casting of non-native Mandarin speakers in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did not sit too well with Chinese moviegoers) and he hasn't shied away from delivering less commercially viable projects before. We'll have to wait and see what chances Lee takes (or is allowed to take) with the $50 million Life of Pi.
Yann Martel's acclaimed source material, Life of Pi, tells the mysterious tale of Pi Patel, a young boy from Pondicherry, India whose faith is put to the test when he is shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean with a zebra, hyena, orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Pi manages to survive the harrowing (not to mention outright surreal) ordeal and recants his experiences to a pair of Japanese maritime officials. But how much of his tale is true?
Oscar-winner Lee will work from a script penned by David Magee (Finding Neverland) and plans to capture the ocean setting of Life of Pi via the assistance of cinematographer Claudio Miranda, whose sumptuous work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button bodes well for the look of this new project. Shooting in 3D will undoubtedly complicate the filmmaking process, but the results could easily prove to be worth the trouble of realizing Life of Pi on the big screen in such a manner.
Life of Pi begins production in Pondicherry, India this upcoming January and is scheduled to hit theaters on December 14th, 2012.