The book Life of Pi by Yann Martel is an interesting book. Though written as a fantasy adventure of sorts, it has underlying spiritual and somewhat philosophical undertones.
The movie of the same name by Ang Lee does not explore that aspect of the narrative. Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’ is solely a CGI supported fantasy adventure which though beautiful to watch feels more suited to a young audience. It lacks the emotional depth of the book and the humour in it.
The actors have all done a great job. Irrfan Khan as present day Piscine Molitor Patel is every bit the endearing Indian guy with a hint of oriental mystique. The younger Pi is played by Gautam Belur and Ayush Tandon. The main hero of the movie is Pi in his teens and is played by Suraj Sharma, and he does a great job. Tabuplays his mom, Gita Patel and Adil Hussain, his father Santosh Patel… both seasoned actors deliver convincing performances.
Of course, the Bengal tiger as Richard Parker is quite a find… majestic and elegant! 🙂
Contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe and what the movie also stresses on, the story is not just about the adventure that results from a shipwreck in which the tiger and the boy are thrown together in a lifeboat to battle it out and survive the journey back to civilization.
This is where I felt there is a huge disconnect between the movie and the book. As you read the book, you feel the inherent need in the boy to keep his faith up in the face of diversity… and not just for survival. For a boy who chooses to embrace three religious faiths and does not have them conflict in his mind, the shipwreck and being alone on the lifeboat is a call to a different sort of faith which is tested in a fierce manner.
In the book, Richard Parker (the Bengal tiger) can talk. The conversations Pi and Parker have are an integral part to understanding the nature of the story. In the end, when the true story is narrated by the boy after being rescued, we understand his need to have escaped into a realm of fantasy where he projects his thoughts on to the tiger as its speech and how he grows up in the short span of 227 days from a teenage boy to a man of strong spiritual belief and practical understanding of the world even while he was totally cut off from it. The communication between Pi and Parker underline the refuge the boy finds in fantasy and escapism when he is suddenly made to face the unexpected wrath of nature and the brutality of humans. In the end, even after survival… that is the story he wants to believe himself… and what helps him to still hold on to his belief in God.
By completely excluding the conversations the boy and the tiger have from the movie, it is put at a disadvantage… the movie is not able to get any deeper than the genre of fantasy… albeit, a thrilling fantasy.
Life of Pi is a technically brilliant film with some really good acting and breath-taking cinematography… The ocean sequences are exquisitely beautiful and India looks lovely and real unlike the usual western concept of a poverty stricken, slum riddled land… which is quite one-sided and extreme a viewpoint.
But, the movie lacks the true soul of the book.
I would rate it a 4 / 5… movie magic
And a 2 / 5 for not truly capturing the essence of the book.
© Surya Murali