Monday, January 23, 2017

The Elephants in my Backyard by Rajiv Surendra

This wasn't a fantastic memoir but it definitely had it's interesting moments.  Surendra's claim to fame was as the rapping athlete, Kevin G, in the Mean Girls movie with Lindsay Lohan, Rachel MacAdam and Tina Fey.  He was a first year University of Toronto student at the time.  While on the set, a cameraman suggested he read Life of Pi, saying "you are Pi".  The superficial resemblances were immediately obvious - Surendra was also South Asian and, while he did not live at the zoo, he grew up right next to Toronto's zoo and could hear all of the animal noises that Pi describes in the book.

Surendra started reading the book the next day, beginning his six year quest to become Pi so he could get the starring role in the movie adaptation.  He was tired of being offered roles only as terrorists or call centre employees, the stock roles for South Asian young men at the time.  First he visited the Toronto zoo to get closer to the tigers.  His quest then led him to begin a lengthy e-mail correspondence with the book's author, Yann Martel.  Several of the e-mails are replicated between chapters of the book.  He also took a break from school and travelled to Pondicherry, India where he spent several weeks at the real school that the fictional Pi attended.  There he befriends several teenage boys who accompany him to the sites described in the book as well as model their accents for him.  He overcomes a tremendous fear of the water to learn how to swim.  He reads every biography he can find of people who survived shipwrecks and even befriends one survivor from Maine.  Finally he visits the casting director in New York and even gives up the chance of a regular TV role in order to push his dream.  Unfortunately he is ultimately unsuccessful (this is not a spoiler since it is easy enough to Google the actual cast of Life of Pi).

To me some of the more interesting parts of the book were those outside his quest - his troubled relationship with his alcoholic and abusive father; his summer jobs at Pioneer Village and the friendships he makes there; and how he adapts his life, becoming a rather unconventional artist, after he loses the role.  My personal favourite scene was when he visited his dermatologist - since she is also my dermatologist and his description of her and her office is perfect.

I don't highly recommend the book but it is an easy read and interesting enough if you are looking for something...

No comments:

Post a Comment