Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life of Pi - Movie Review

'Life of Pi' was explained in two lines that Pi says. Something to the effect that Richard Parker , the tiger, kept Pi alive through those lost days in the Pacific. The tiger first strikes the fear of death in the young boy thereby keeping him awake, aware and alive as he looks to survive. Then, as he begins to understand the helplessness of the tiger and starts to take care of it, Richard Parker gives him a purpose to live. That responsibility gives Pi a power far higher than thinking of his own life or death. God did make a masterpiece when he made man - it's always easier for us to rise above our own lives when it comes to others - our children, family, subjects, anyone. Wonderful stuff.

'Life of Pi' is told by the protagonist Pi (short for Piscine Molitor, a swimming pool in France, though why anyone would name their first born Ravi and the second born Piscine Molitor beats me). Pi is the second son of a zoo owner in Pondicherry and he grows up developing a deep faith in god, in all gods really. The family decides to move to Canada upon the imposition of emergency in India, animals and all, and boards a Japanese ship. The ship hits a storm and soon Pi finds himself on a small boat with a Bengal tiger, a zebra, a hyena and an Orang Utan. The three animals die, killed by one another, and its Pi and the tiger, and how they survive the 227 day journey across the Pacific. Who survives and how is the story.

I did read Yann Martel's work on the recommendation of my good friend Naresh Raghvan a decade ago almost. It did nothing to me then. I was stupid and younger then. I am stupid and older now so it made some sense. Need to read the book again. I think it's a wonderful tale, told in a stark and brilliant setting. It's either the tiger or you. And when you survive that, you think that the tiger is thinking the same thing. Could it be that we survive the journey, not in spite of one another, but because of one another? Are our worst enemies really our best friends?

(Interestingly the writer of the book Yann Martel was accused of plagiarism from a novella 'Max and the Cats' written by Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar - a story of a Jewish-American who shares a boat with a jaguar. However I'd like to think that stories probably go beyond their setting and that Martel, who later agreed to being inspired by a review of the novella, built his story on a different premise.)

Ang Lee is a master. To take such a complex tale and show it so powerfully on screen, to entertain throughout without a single moment that stretches your involvement, to show it so wonderfully and get the message across must be very satisfying to him. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I have a feeling that the movie and its idea will stay with me longer than I think it might. It does endorse a view I am pretty convinced about now - life gets boring if there is no challenge and it takes on a higher plane if there is purpose.

There were moments when Anjali got scared with all the growling and shouting and the imminent sense of danger but full credit to the movie that the five year old got back to watching the movie after those few moments. And this one is even better, she says that her favorite character in the movie was Richard Parker. I think she may have some more to share - might be a good idea to interview her on this. It's a classic this movie, a visual treat, and deserves all the praise and recognition it got.

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