Danny Pudi has embarked on a new voyage: that of the lead in The Tiger Hunter, a project of writer-director Lena Khan. The story is a coming-of-age tale about a Sami, a young engineer from India who moves to Chicago in the 1970s. The film is a catalog of one immigrant’s challenges and misadventures, and the complications that arise when he and his friends engage in an elaborate pretense to win the heart of Sami’s beloved.
Pudi connected the story to his own life, his own family history, as his father came from India during the same era. “So much of it was personal to me,” Pudi says. “It reminded me of my own family story.” Pudi relished, he says, “playing an Indian role that had so much depth to it, and was the lead role.” That commended the story to him on “a personal level.”
He said his parents hadn’t talked much about their experiences when they first came to America. (Pudi’s mother emigrated from Poland.) “For me, it was interesting that after they came here, they never really talked about their experiences. I never really knew much about it.”
“During the course of this movie,” Pudi says, he got to “appreciate their journey. It was really exciting. It was fun to be able to begin to explore my own background in the story.” There was a great common thread woven across the tales of immigration, Pudi notes. As he describes it, this was “the idea that people go a new country to seek a better life and better opportunities than they have. You’re searching for something.” His character, Sammi, was “starting from scratch. Doing that is tremendously brave and courageous.”
“He’s very ambitious,” Pudi continues. “He wants to prove himself. But at the same time you also see some of things he’s doing, and you’re aware of what sort of pressure he’s putting on himself.” The story was a kind of quest, to be sure. Sami “kind of loses part of himself because in some way he took it for granted.”
“And,” Pudi adds, “you know, at the root of it is really this guy trying to figure out who he is.”
Lena Khan’s The Tiger Hunter will open this Friday.