If you schmucks were to ask me if I liked Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s new film based on Yann Martel’s delightful book of the same name, my response would be a guarded “Yes.”
I read the Booker Prize winning novel a few years back and returned to terra firma in a heady state.
The book is awesome.
A few hours back, I watched the 3D version of Life of Pi and, alas, yours truly did not derive the same unalloyed pleasure afforded by the book.
Part of the reason is, I knew the complete story.
And so the magic and high adventure of the strange cohabitation of Richard Parker and Pi Patel, marooned together on a small boat in the vast, endless Pacific Ocean, was to a great degree lost to me.
Second, the movie is much more of an adventure tale, albeit an unlikely one.
More than merely an adventure tale on the high seas, the book offers greater pathos and drips with humor.
In the movie, the story tilts more toward the adventure side, the humor quotient is watered down and the dialogs don’t crackle as much.
I ventured into the movie hall with lofty expectations that, obviously, can never be met when you’re translating any book into a movie, more so an unusual one like Life of Pi.
All that said, I still think in Ang Lee, author Yann Martel found a director worthy of bringing his extraordinary oceanic fantasy to life on the big screen.
Surely, many other filmmakers considered making a movie based on Martel’s book but did not pick up the gantlet fearing the story was impossible to translate to the screen.
It’s to Ang Lee’s credit that he took up the challenge and delivered in good measure.
The Story of Pi
Narrated in flashback several years after the events, Life of Pi centers around a South Indian teen Piscine Molitor Patel a.k.a Pi shipwrecked above the deep Mariana trench, in the Pacific Ocean.
Like so many Indians (including SI) who have turned their back on Mera Bharat Mahaan, Pi and his family have bid goodbye to India and are migrating from Pondicherry to Canada to make a new, better life.
The family has taken along with them a large menagerie of animals from Pi’s father Santosh Patel’s zoo. The father hopes to sell the animals in America and make good money off them.
Soon after the freighter leaves Manila, it encounters a nasty squall and sinks.
The storm scene leading to the sinking of the ship is well done.
Except for Pi, an injured Zebra, Richard Parker the adult Bengal tiger, a Hyena and an Orangutan, the rest meet a watery grave.
All of the survivors end up on ‘Pi’s Ark‘ but not all of them survive.
For the next hour and 20 minutes, we’re witness to the unfolding of an extraordinary fantasy tale of Pi and Richard Parker crossing the Pacific Ocean together over the course of 227-days in a small boat.
Under Lee’s tight grip, the movie sails smoothly, beautifully.
Through sunny days and dark nights, placid waters and raging waves, battling hunger and thirst, the bone-weary duo of the herbivore Pi and carnivore Richard Parker ride the waves in one of the great survival, endurance tests seen on the big screen.
Each needs the other to survive the ordeal.
Is there a lesson in there somewhere, that it’s our enemies who define us, who shape us, who give some meaning to our dreary lives?
The digital special effects folks behind the creation of Richard Parker have turned in an amazing job.
You putzheads will be hard pressed to believe that the grown Bengal tiger is not real.
Richard Parker’s glistening orange, brown, black and white fur, the long white, curled whiskers, the shining brown eyes, the sharp incisors, the fearsome roar, every bit of the Bengal tiger looks so life-like that I wonder why we can’t replace worthless turdpiles like Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Trisha, Samantha and, hey, most Indian ‘actors’ with digital creations. Food for thought, eh?
There were two breathtaking scenes of the ocean by night and one stunning picture of a carnivorous floating forest that’ll fill you with awe.
But in terms of overall visual imagery, I’d rate Avatar a bit higher. Perhaps, the vivid colors of the forest setting in Avatar lend themselves to better picturization than the oceanic backdrop.
By the way, I went for the 3D version of Life of Pi. But am in two minds whether the $3.25 surcharge was worth it.
The heroes of the movie are undoubtedly Yann Martel’s amazing fantasy tale, Pi (Suraj Sharma) and Richard Parker (the Bengal Tiger).
Some 37-minutes into the movie, we’re left only with Pi and Richard Parker, the rest consigned to the bottom of the ocean.
I’d unhesitatingly say Suraj Sharma as the teen Pi has done a fine job.
Life of Pi is Suraj’s debut film and he was selected from a group of several thousand hopefuls. It’ll be interesting to see where Suraj goes from Pi.
Irrfan Khan, the grownup version of Pi, has a short role but still manages to leave an impression as the narrator of the story.
Tabu’s role is so insignificant, both in terms of time and content, that I will not dwell upon it one second longer. Oh wait, Tabu’s Tamil is not up to snuff. At least, not to these old ears.
Adil Hussain is fine as Pi’s zoo-owner father, again in short role.
French film buffs will be pleased to see the legendary Gérard Depardieu in a bit role as the angry cook on the ship.
Life of Pi – Bottom Line
I suspect that those who have not read the book, the vast majority of moviegoers, will enjoy Life of Pi more than the minority that has pored over the book.
With Life of Pi, Ang Lee cements his reputation as one of the remarkable filmmakers of our time. I greatly relished Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain and, to a lesser degree, Lust, Caution.
Life of Pie more than meets my approval.
SearchIndia.com heartily recommends Life of Pi for all those who like classy films.