Life of Pi – Surreal documentary

Story line:

Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, from Pondicherry (India), grows up a confused boy with respect to his religious beliefs. His family owns the animals in a zoo, they maintain on a public property. Later his family decides to move to Canada and in that process, they plan to sell their animals (which they will be taking along with them) to buyers in America and Canada , before they can immigrate. They travel in a Japanese cargo ship which gets capsized in a storm. Only Pi, and four animals (a zebra, a orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker) survive in a small boat. After a few days only Richard Parker and Pi are left in their journey of survival. What happens to them, how they survive and how they end up finally in a Mexican coast to be rescued by some fishermen there forms the story. In this movie, the story of Pi and Richard Parker is told by Pi to a novelist (who during his brief time in Pondicherry in search of a story meets Pi’s uncle by chance)

I haven’t read the book, so I wouldn’t know how the movie has fared with respect to the screen play adaptation of the book. Having watched Ang Lee’s movies (especially Brokeback Mountains : one of my very favorites, Sense and Sensibility & Hulk)  expectations were galore. But in spite of that, there was a slight concern because this movie includes religious sentiments from my place  (South India). The movie starts rather slowly. It takes its own time for character establishment. Why Piscine is referred to as Pi, how as a boy, he struggles to find his place, not sure of what he should be believing and so ends up believing everything (in context of religions..and especially in India where you will find a temple, a mosque and a church all together in a single road..and its very vast culture… its very easy to get lost in a philosophical sense or rather get greatly enlightened 🙂 ).  The entry of Richard Parker…oh! the magnificent cat has its charm… Its eyes.. they are a beauty. Without going into the depth of the story here, all characters have performed well. Suraj Sharma as Pi is good.

The boat journey of Pi and Richard Parker, which takes them to places (like the floating island), and showcases the various wonders of the sea (like the dolphins, flying fish, the whale, jelly fish…too many to write here).. those shots were incredible. They are picture perfect post card scenes and many such scenes were surreal.. I am not sure if you would ever find them in real life. Photography and Cinematography (and some graphics) are really amazing.. you could never imagine those when you read that book (I guess). But in the overall scheme of things, there is something amiss. Unless you are awed by looking at the places near to you (Pondicherry) in a English film or your religious rituals being showcased (the mangala arathi in a Perumal temple) or the use of local language (tamil – my native language) in the first 1 hour of the movie with subtitles in English you would get bored. And the movie need not have been in 3D at all. The only place where the 3D did have its effect was the (re)entry of Richard Parker in the boat.. but if you are a keen watcher (like me), then you would easily guess it even before Richard Parker leaps @ you. My friend literally jumped out of her seats 😀 as did many others. I had involuntarily shifted my eyes that exact second. The use of those 3D glasses did give me some headache at the end. And the 3D also blurred the bright lights used in various shots.

Some of the scenes which I really loved were, the first entry of Richard Parker, the place where Pi speaks to the tiger, but he would be watching the moon and then finally turns back and looks @ him.. I love that cat. The way they both grow thin and lean due to lack of food and water and then once in the floating island, gain some strength and then again become weak… it was done well. The other problem was the narration that kept coming up from Pi, who had settled in Canada and who is narrating the story to a novelist…. so it goes a bit back and forth. Of course you need it in a movie and in the book it could have been easily done in a page or two, but still…

Visually, it is very good. You can definitely take some religious and philosophical inputs from it (if you believe in them). Kids will like it because they get to see so many creatures than they could see in different programs shown in Animal Plant or NGC. But when you come out of the movie, it felt like a documentary drama, which was not what I expected from Ang Lee. But is it because this is the best that can be done with this story or is it because of something else, I am not sure.

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