Movie: Life of Pi
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Adil Hussain
After surviving 227 days afloat on an 8-foot boat in the sole company of a 400-pound Royal Bengal tiger in the merciless pith of the Pacific Ocean, you may come to the conclusion that Pi aka Piscine Patel realized the existence of God. But, in reality, on this journey of self-exploration, Pi only found answers to some questions rooted deep within him that in turn helped him to understand God and his actions. Lee’s adaption of Martel’s original goes unhampered in a visually powerful and enjoyable film.
When a Japanese ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it leaves a Zebra, a Hyena, an Orangutan, a Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker and a 16-year old vegetarian boy named Pi Patel stranded on a life boat to fight for survival. As Pi sees each of his companions getting killed and eaten by each other, he’s left all alone with the tiger to learn life’s most important lessons and find out if they can mutually co-exist in a world created by God.
Though one aspect of the film harps on the message that when all else fails, one needs to surrender to God and make him our own, the other aspect of the narrative subtly throws focus on the sagacious relationship between Pi and Parker. Most of the running time, stretched but not boring, involves scenes between Pi and the tiger, which happens to be digitally created, is difficult to believe. At the end of their journey, when Pi reminisces his days with Richard, he not only appreciates life but comes to learn that God was all along with him on the voyage in the form of Richard Parker.
Lee holds the attention of the audience with larger-than-life technical brilliance. The work of VFX artistes catapults the film to greater heights, and sometimes even higher than Cameron’s “Avatar”. To keep the audience hooked visually is an art, and Lee has mastered it with the help of 3D, which certainly comes as a blessing in this film. You gaze in wonderment at some of the best, visually arresting scenes. Roughly, for about 100 minutes or even more, Lee makes you sail with Pi and Richard on a life boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The turbulence of the thunder storm, mighty leap of a whale, night sky filled with stars over still ocean, or even some of the best shots focusing on the boat from different sides, makes for one of the best visual experiences ever that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Maggie Lee has handled the screenplay adeptly with special focus on building the strong premise of the film quite early on. Scenes in Pondicherry, especially those between Pi and his father about the difference between humans and animal pave way to deeper realization of life later on in the film. Be it the subtle romance between Suraj and Shravanthi, or Pi’s relentless effort to understand religion, all credit goes to Maggie for not making everything too obvious, but allowing it to gradually play with psyche of the viewers. All other technicians who worked on this project deserve a standing ovation.
Suraj Sharma steals the thunder hands down in a performance that’ll push you to the edge of your seat, while Irrfan as the narrator and older Pi breathes life into the film. I only wish he had dropped his accent. Tabu as the mother delivers a striking performance, but it’s the father played by Adil Hussain, with his life’s important teachings’, struggling to imbibe the same into his children, qualifies as the next best to Suraj.