Often we remember God only in the moments of deepest anxieties, gravest concerns or impending peril. Piscine Molitor Patel (Suraj Sharma) however has his own unique notions of pantheism. For a person who follows three different religions or alternately the three major religions of India, it is quite evident that his surroundings have had huge impact in shaping his personality, his beliefs, and more or less his actions; very much like the inhabitants of forest. And very much like animals if Pi is removed from his habitat, would he be able to adapt to his new surroundings? Especially when he is in the middle of an ocean on a lifeboat whose occupants include a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a Bengal tiger? Could he survive this ordeal?
Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a spiritual expedition which explores the depths of faith, exhibits the competence of unyielding courage and manifests the tremendous contingency of sheer humanity. The unfilmable novel as it was called before Lee tailor-made it for his audience while preserving its moral aesthetics, ambiguities and the baffling relationship between Richard Parker (tiger) and Pi. Devastated by the ship-wreck which claimed the lives of his family, Pi finds himself in the company of Richard Parker in the middle of the Pacific. Engulfed by grief and despair, Pi engineers a raft tethered to the life-boat separating himself from the carnivore. From enduring squadrons of flying fish to escaping a carnivorous island, Pi’s treacherous journey is further marred with the insufficient life sustaining supplies and recurring onslaught. As the adult Pi narrates his story to the writer he mentions that,” you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.” It’s not just his faith but the very notions of faith and doubt, theism and agnosticism, fallacy and reality that is propounded along the premise resting upon the viewers to decide on these perplexing conundrums of our existence.
The relationship between Richard Parker and Pi is the soul of the film. You can’t compare it with that of Wilson and Chuck Noland in Cast Away. Its that lethal and fragile state of co-existence of a carnivore and meat. Pi’s endeavour ain't just restricted to feeding himself but tending to the needs of the tiger as well. Being a son of zookeeper Pi was fascinated by animals from an early age and unlike his father (Adil Hussain) Pi believed that animals too have souls. Perhaps this very belief inhibited him from abandoning the tiger in the middle of the ocean or even at the treacherous island. While documenting his journey in a safety manual book Pi confesses that if it had not been for the tiger, he would have probably not survived. The brilliant use of CGI conjures more than convincing depiction of the various eccentricities of the tiger and is made deadlier than ever by the masterly employed 3D technology by Claudio Miranda. Life of Pi repels the norms that 3D is restricted for grand spectacle or picturesque representation alone. Mirando captures the expanse of the oceans in all its serenity and turbulence with equally exhilarating juxtaposition of frames. The mirror-esque still water of the ocean which reflects the sun and the contents of its surface is overwhelming. So is the fluorescent ripples followed by breath-taking emergence of whale from the depths of the Pacific. The carnivorous island with its nocturnal acidic water is wonderfully embroidered with spectacular highlighting and fluorescence. It’s commendable for until now it was completely unheard of and is the key ingredient in the overall pacifying surrealism of Pi’s journey.
David Magee’s adaptation of the Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize winning novel is well disguised to find an appeal among larger section of audiences. The film does falter towards the end during its dual interpretation of Pi’s journey which should rather have ended on a more ambiguous note. The film has a modest runtime of 127 minutes though certain dull sequences could have been edited from the final draft. Life of Pi has its share of hypothesis and fantasy yet the thin line that separates these from authenticity is always visible and like undeterred and unconditional faith it requires that sense of belief that so many times in our lives leads us to better understandings of harsh realities. The adult Pi regrets not being able to say goodbye to his girlfriend Anandi and more so to his companion and friend Richard Parker. By the end of the film we crave to see more of the teenage Pi yet in our hearts we bid a warm farewell to a now blissful and content Pi