Films and filmmakers are given artistic liberties so that they can make the most of the tale that they are trying to spin and bring forth something worth our while. Most of the time, we are disappointed and left wanting. But sometimes, a visionary filmmaker breaks the mold and delivers to us a film, nay an experience that one can take far beyond the constraints of the silver or flickering screen. “Life of Pi” is one such experience.
The film opens with a narrative by a grown up Pi (Irrfan Khan) to a Canadian writer about his early years in India. He tells us how his name got to be so. He was named after a French hotel called “Piscine.” And like all boys young, his devious classmates find a way to nickname him “pee.” And Pi strives hard, never giving up easily to get back his name. Without revealing too much, this shows us the determined little critter that he is. On his way to teenage-dom, Pi is plagued by many questions about spirituality and God, and in doing so keeps us engrossed too and not in the preachy way.
Pi’s family runs a zoo where he searches for some sort of humanity or souls in the beasts, only to be taught by his father through a tiger named Richard Parker that the beasts are indeed wild and cannot be tamed. And in the course of time his family has to sell the zoo and travel across the seas to Canada to a new life. And on this journey, disaster strikes and the ship they are in along with his family are lost to the depths of the ocean. Leaving him and Richard Parker stranded on a lifeboat on the unforgiving and unpredictable vastness. This sets the setting for the rest of the film.
The boy and the beast together on the boat for 227 days, with nowhere to run or hide. The boy must learn to be a survivor and the beast must learn to ‘learn.’
They embark together on this journey starting as mere unwilling strangers sharing a single boat to being spiritually bound where one is not complete without the other.More of a ‘till death do us apart’ kind of feeling.
The 3D visuals have never been more spectacular. I feel 3D film making was invented for this. Unlike dismal films (like Dark of the Moon) where 3D is just another tool to shock us, to jolt us, where 3D means the audiences having to shell out a few more of their precious hard-earned cash. This movie tales 3D film making to another level of greatness.
The virtuoso that Ang Lee is, he puts in spectacular jaw dropping, spell binding, awe inspiring, heart wrenching visuals that you can’t help but ‘believe.’ He uses 3D not to add another dimension of visual effects, but to add another emotional dimension.
There are visuals where the creation of the Creator all exist in perfect harmony- the sea, life on the boat and the skies above and at times otherwise. And Ang Lee adds a touch of sensibility here and a touch of ‘put-your-heart-in-a-mixer-and-shoot-it-up-your-veins’ there. But, never overdoing anything, just enough.
There are scenes where we are made to ask if all of it is real or just the tall tales of a boy disoriented and confused by dehydration and monotony. But its what we choose to believe that is important. The film explores sentiments of believe, trust , friendship and religion but never once going the moral high road or sounding preachy, always entertaining.
As in the acting department, Irrfan Khan as the grown up Pi, Tabu as Pi’s mother and Pi’s father have done a great job (nothing less expected of Tabu and Irrfan, especially in a Hollywood production). But the real praise goes to Suraj Sharma, the yet unknown boy who portrays Pi. He plays the part so well, even losing a lot of weight and transforming himself physically for the role. He has shown Pi’s transformation from a boy confused about his being and existence to a man of determined convictions and confident beliefs. Richard Parker, the tiger was also portrayed very well, even on the verge of being almost human, if not better, and the credit goes to the CGI department.
As for me, I was lucky enough to catch this film in all its 3D magnificence, but worry not, even without the 3D, this movie is sure to pack enough punch to knock the emotional bejesus out of you. And for my sake and yours too, please don’t miss this, it’s not a film, it’s an experience. Ciao.