Indian unknown, 17, cast as lead in Life of Pi film

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The Independent Culture

A 17-year-old Indian student with no acting experience has beaten off 3,000 other young hopefuls to play the lead role in the film of Yann Martel's hit book Life of Pi.

Suraj Sharma, whose parents are both mathematicians in Delhi, was picked by director Ang Lee after a months-long search during which thousands of people auditioned for the part, a press release from Fox studios said Tuesday.

"Casting the sixteen-year-old Pi was particularly challenging," said Lee, who directed Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" as well as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

"We searched throughout India for a young man who had the innocence to capture our attention, the depth of character to break our hearts and the physicality needed to embody Pi on his journey," he said.

Lee said Sharma had shown he could convey emotion just through his eyes and had natural ability that was "a rare treasure".

Life of Pi, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2002, tells the story of Pi Patel as he travels from a zoo in India across the Pacific, where he survives a shipwreck and is cast adrift in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for company.

The 3-D film is being shot in India and Taiwan and is scheduled for release in December 2012.