Soundar Rajan turns English tutor for Life of Pi cast
Mysore’s Prof Higgins
If the 1956 Hollywood musical My Fair Lady’s Cockney-accented flower girl Eliza Doolittle had Prof Henry Higgins to make her a pucca English Lady, putting the ensemble cast of Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s 2012 film, Life of Pi, through their paces for perfecting English with that typical Tamil twang was Mysore’s very own Prof Higgins.
Answering to N S Soundar Rajan, this former Electronics & Radar Establishment (LRDE) staffer, who has made teaching English to the uninitiated a fine art, though not his professional calling, ensured that Lee’s cast got their Tamgalish accents (Tamil English) right in the film.
How this proud Pratham Apartments resident of V V Mohalla, Mysore, got to don the role of a Tamil dialect coach is in itself celluloid dream saga whose script of a lifetime was written by none other than son Abhishek, working with a software firm as vice-president in Gurgaon.
For Soundar Rajan, who has tutored Chinese students to speak the Queen’s language at the University of Mysore, and runs a syndicate as English facilitator, the call from his son in the August of 2010 could not have been more fortuitous. What more could the father ask for when his son a la Colonel Hugh Pickering (of My Fair Lady fame) posing him the question: Do you want to teach English to Hollywood crew?
That Abhishek’s pal — actor Thilothama, auditioned for role but not making the cut, was catalyst for Soundar Rajan realising his dream date with Taiwan’s acclaimed auteur of cinematic gems like Sense & Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain — the magical and masterly Ang Lee, his charismatic crew, and Hollywood, is another story in itself.
Producers 20th Century Fox taking him on board, Soundar Rajan’s surreal journey like the film’s very own protagonist — Piscine Molitor Patel aka Pi began in Taiwan from December 2010 to March 2011, when handed the dialogue sheets. With Life of Pi set in Puducherry and its collegium of cast having Tamil background, Soundar Rajan was one busy man for whom his TGI method, short for transformation guided imagery, came in handy. In short, Soundar Rajan translated dialogues into Tamil with the help of Google.
It was no wonder then that when Life of Pi was nominated for Oscars, and Lee eventually went on to bag the coveted Best Director, Mysore’s own Prof Higgins was glued to television and went into ecstatic raptures of jubiliation and joy when the Hollywood blockbuster clinched not just one, but four awards.