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HONG KONG and DELHI – Just hours after bagging an Oscar statuette in Los Angeles, Ang Lee has been told of yet another award coming his way: an honorary citizen’s medal from the municipal authorities of Taichung, the Taiwanese city where he shot the ocean scenes in Life of Pi.
Speaking to the Taiwanese CNA news agency, Taichung mayor Jason Hu – who watched the awards ceremony after a medical check-up in a Taipei hospital – said Lee deserves the best director prize and that he thanked Lee for putting the island on the map by shooting Life of Pi there and then giving Taiwan a call-out in his acceptance speech.
Hu said Lee, who was born in southern Taiwan and left the island to study filmmaking in the U.S. in 1979, should be accorded with recognition by the Taiwanese government, and he will make the filmmaker an honorary citizen of Taichung.
Hu’s administration was a major backer of Life of Pi, having contributed NT$50 million ($1.7 million) to the film’s budget as well as subsidizing the construction of an NT$150 million ($5.1 million) artificial pool in a disused airport, where Lee shot parts of the film featuring his lead character (played by Suraj Sharma) spending months at sea on a boat with only a (computer-generated) tiger for company.
The production has since donated the structure to the Taichung authorities. Hu earlier pledged to keep the pool, which measures 75 meters by 30 meters and comes with 12 wave machines, as a centerpiece for a movie park comprising soundstages, backlots and postproduction facilities.
Taiwan’s central government also injected NT$200 million ($6.7 million) into the film through a long-running subsidy scheme set up to assist projects by the island’s filmmakers.
Life of Pi has prove to be a hit in Taiwan, where it brought in $15.6 million. The film has also collected about $85 million on mainland China.
Meanwhile, Lee set the Indian blogosphere alight by concluding his acceptance speech on Sunday night with a salutation in Hindi.
“YES!!! Life of Pi wins four Oscars, with most deserved Best Director Oscar for Ang Lee, who ended speech with ‘Namaste,’” actor Kabir Bedi posted on Twitter.
“Congratulations to the entire team of Life Of Pi and to the Genius called Ang Lee. Proud to have worked with him.:),” said a tweet by actor Anupam Kher, who was at the Oscar ceremony as part of the ensemble cast of Silver Linings Playbook. Kher — who also posted a photo of himself with Lee taken at a pre-Oscar party — had worked with the two-time Oscar-winning director in 2007’s Lust, Caution.
“Ohhhh how beautiful to see Ang Lee on the stage. He truly truly truly deserves it,” tweeted actor Adil Hussain, who stars in Life of Pi, playing the principal character’s father.
Perhaps the tweet that best captured the enthusiasm of Lee’s Oscar win and acceptance speech came from Bollywood banner Balaji Telefilms CEO Tanuj Garg: “Every Indian has just had an orgasm over Ang Lee’s ‘namaste.’”
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