Life of Pi (2012)

“You can get used to anything,” says Pi in the book. And, you have to watch the movie to consider that just an understatement.

Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee is such a thrilling visual experience, that you wouldn’t feel like blinking, in case you miss any of the scenes. It’s the only film since James Cameron’s Avatar, to exploit the true potential of 3D so richly. Every scene in the film seems like a elegant water colour painting painted by a master artist…from the open blue skies, to the vastness of the ocean, the wondrous marine life underwater, even the island on which our hero at one point lands. Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon uses the technology astutely to draw you into this impossible story of a boy, the sea, and a tiger.

Born in a zoo owned by his parents, Piscine Molitor Patel (played by newcomer Suraj Sharma), named after his uncle’s favorite swimming pool in Paris, lives surrounded by animals in his father’s zoo in Pondicherry. Pi, he nicknames himself. When the family decides to move to Canada, they pack up their belongings; exotic animals included, and aboard a ship. A massive storm causes the ship to sink. Only Pi and a tiger named Richard Parker survive, leaving them stuck on a lifeboat adrift at sea.

Narrated in flashback by the older Pi (Irrfan Khan) to a visitor in his home, this is the story of how a boy protected himself from becoming a tiger’s dinner, about the incredible experiences he went through during this ordeal that lasted over 200 days, and about how young Pi thought of God while he was on that boat, surrounded by endless water.

The film, which is adapted from Yann Martel’s Booker-Prize winning novel, above all is a visual treat. Lee gives Life of Pi an epic, sweeping feel, but can’t seem to smoothly transpose the book’s overarching themes of spirituality and faith to the screen. We’re told Pi, who is raised a Hindu, also embraced Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, and his faith is tested as he struggles to stay afloat and alive under such trying circumstances. The film raises questions about life and death, about faith and what is real. But this whole spiritual business feels pat, lending little else but another ‘exotic’ layer to the story.

Nothing in the film is as enthralling as the relationship and the unwarranted living arrangement between Pi and the fierce Richard Parker. The tiger, in particular, is the film’s most stunning creation, realized entirely through computer-generated special effects. Lee employs CGI to deliver moments of sheer jaw-dropping beauty like a nighttime scene in which the ocean is lit up by colorful fish. Another stunning sequence is one in which Pi and the tiger encounter a shoal of flying fish.

The photography in on word is beautiful, showcasing the mysteries and the dangers and the wonders of the seas.

Entrusted with an incredible, leading role in his very first film, Suraj Sharma anchors “Life of Pi” with a compelling. An axe to grind here: the accents, except Tabu’s, are bad. While Irrfan can be forgiven, considering that he’s supposed to be living abroad, the younger Pi’s have accents that can at best be called confused. But since the director’s target audience is wider than the sub-continent, it’s probably for a reason.

I’m going with four out of five for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. It may not touch your heart, but it’s a feast for the eyes. This boy and tiger does justify a watch.