'Mean Girls' Alum Rajiv Surendra Felt 'Dead Inside' After Losing 'Life of Pi' Role

He's best known for playing a rapping mathlete in the hit film, but after losing the role of a lifetime he has since branched out from acting

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cm2c5TxubGj/ rajivsurendra Verified As a child, our family’s New Year tradition was going to the Hindu temple in Richmond Hill, an auspicious beginning to a new calendar. It was very moving to be back at this special temple today, witnessing Vishnu being ritually bathed (abishekam) I’m SO grateful to all of you who have encouraged me to start my own YouTube channel which launches tomorrow. Thank you all, I hope you enjoy the three videos that go up at midnight! 5w
Photo: Rajiv Surendra/Instagram

Rajiv Surendra made a big impact as the scene-stealing mathlete Kevin Gnapoor in Mean Girls but that was back in 2004. What is he up to now?

The actor, 34, explained that he attempted to continue acting beyond that role, but things didn't end up so well after failing to secure the part he threw his heart and soul into pursuing, he told GQ in an interview.

"While we were shooting Mean Girls during my first year of college, I found out they were turning the 'Life of Pi' into a film. I was determined to get that part," he explained. "So I dropped out of college to go to the little town in India where the book takes place so that I could do some in-depth research."

MEAN GIRLS, Rajiv Surendra, Tina Fey, 2004, (c) Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

"I did that for a few months and came back and was just waiting for them to start production. I assumed that it was going to happen any day now and it didn't. They lost their director and the project ended up getting put on hold so I went back to college."

Surendra clarified that he only intended school to be a placeholder until he could take on the role of his dreams, but it all came to a devastating halt.

"The project kept getting delayed," he said. "Three months turned into a year turned into four years. It was actually six years because of that year off. Life of Pi was attached to four different directors over the years, so every time a new director [came aboard], I'd go to the library and get out all the movies they had made and research that director."

"I worked really, really hard to try to get this part. In the end, they gave it to somebody else."

The role went to Suraj Sharma under its ultimate director Ang Lee. Surendra admits that "it felt like someone had died."

"Very slowly over the course of six years, I was building this boy that was a character in a book. By the end of those years, that was a real person inside of me. Those old Tamil songs I listened to as a kid, Pi would've listened to those songs."

"When I got the email saying I didn't get the part, I felt like that person just died instantly. It was traumatic. I think I was in shock for a couple weeks. I felt dead inside for a long time."

Surendra left acting behind following this disappointment. The Toronto native rejected a traditional 9-to-5 route, made his way to Europe pursuing an au pair job, and eventually ended up in New York City after starting a calligraphy business and began building an online following.

"Overall I find the ultimate question people need to ask themselves is: 'What do I want?' And they need to come up with that answer on their own. In a very deep way," he noted.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

"When you figure that out, it actually is simple to achieve it but it means you have to let go of a lot of things."

Related Articles