Rajiv Surendra (the rapping mathlete from Mean Girls) read Life of Pi, discovered it was being adapted into a major motion picture, and embarked on a ten-year journey to land the role of a lifetime--but this is not a journey of goals and victories, this is a story of obsessively pursuing a dream, overcoming failure, and finding meaning in life.
n 2003, Rajiv Surendra was acting in Mean Girls, playing the beloved rapping mathlete Kevin Gnapoor, when a cameraman on set gave him a copy of Life of Pi, inadvertently changing the course of his life.
Rajiv dove into the novel, mesmerized by all the similarities between Pi and himself--they are both five-foot-five, with coffee-colored complexions; both share a South Indian culture; Pi lives in a zoo, and Rajiv grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, right beside the Toronto Zoo. When Rajiv learns that Life of Pi will be made into a major motion picture, he is convinced Pi is the role he is destined to play.
To land the role he knows he must embody the spirit of the sixteen-year-old Tamil schoolboy. In a great leap of faith, he quits university and buys a one-way ticket to India. Thus begins his enchanting and bumpy years-long journey from Toronto to the sacred stone temples of South India and the actual private school in Pondicherry that the fictional Pi attended, to rural Maine where Rajiv befriends a real-life castaway, and culminating in the most unexpected of places--the cobbled streets of Munich.
Poignant, funny, colorful, and absolutely unforgettable, The Elephants in My Backyard is an inspiring tale of taking risks and following one's dreams, of process and determination, and looking back on one's endeavors--be they successes or colossal defeats--with new appreciation and meaning.
In this honest but uneven memoir, actor Surendra chronicles his pursuit to become cast in the lead role of the 2012 film Life of Pi. Surendra discovers the novel that the film is based on during his time on the set of Mean Girls. Surendra is convinced by cultural, physical, and biographical similarities that he is destined to portray Pi, the Tamil teenager at the center of the book, and sets out on a series of adventures to test his ability to embody his beloved character. In an early escapade, Surendra abandons his college life in Toronto to visit Pondicherry, India, the hometown of Pi. Here, the genuinely curious narrator grapples with the pressure of researching for a coveted role while rediscovering his own identity: "My first name was the part I thought was authentic, but in that classroom in Pondicherry, I discovered that I had lived my whole life pronouncing my own name incorrectly, like a big dumb-dumb." These reflective moments add breadth to a voice that is otherwise naive to a fault, stumbling awkwardly as he creates insensitive caricatures of some of the minor characters who cross his path. By the end of the journey, casual readers get to experience beekeeping, au-pairing in Munich, and the life of a museum reenactor, but most will likely be left wondering what the book's bigger point is.