Life Of Pi: A Review

(Pronounced As “Pie”, Not “Pee”)

Before launching into the experience I had while watching this movie, or discussing what works and what doesn’t, let me make it clear that I did not want to go see this movie. Yes, you shady South Delhi wannabes, gasp away. The trailers, and summaries did not make this Ang Lee directed film out to be more than a two hour video of a boy on a boat with a tiger. So exciting!

And then again, we have Le Pseudo Intellectuals dying to go watch the movie, because, “OMG, it’s just gonna be so amazing!”

So, I arrived at an extremely overcrowded theatre, infested to the point of contagious with kids – yeah a lot of them ended up in the same hall as me – and I couldn’t help but wonder that if this had been a review of quality control at the cinema (I choose not to name it), it wouldn’t be too good.

So, after about 10 whole minutes of the opening credits, set to a sleepy score and different shots of animals, we meet our characters –Pi (the magnetic Irrfan Khan) and Mr. Writer (Rafe Spall). Rafe Spall has been sent to Pi’s house in Canada by a certain character called Mamaji (Pi’s maternal uncle), with the promise of a story that would make him believe in god.

Piscine Molitor (Pi) begins his story, first mentioning the reason behind his odd name – he was named by Mamaji after a French swimming pool – and then sharing his experiences of being bullied at school. Basically, Mamaji is this oddly shaped man, who loves to swim, and is so enthralled by the pristine water at the swimming pool that he gives Pi the strange name. Indeed, Ang Lee presents water in this movie in a magical way. One never knows whether the view is from underwater or up top, looking down.

Water itself plays an important role in the film; we often see images weave through it, as Pi fights for survival.

Pi’s father owns a zoo, in the French-Indian town of Pondicherry, but  due to a series of unfortunate events, is forced to sell off everything and move, along with the family, to build a future abroad.

Tabu, yeah she does have a menial role in terms of screen time, is Pi’s mum and fits perfectly into the role of the caring mother, especially when she holds on to her son while the father makes him watch the tiger, Richard Parker, devour a lamb. Poor little Pi was just trying to be friendly, evil dad!

We also realise, quite early on, that Pi is an unusual kid; he has a very close connection to Hinduism, Christianity and even Islam. While his father is a Dicken-esque believer in “facts, facts, facts!” and rationale, and his mother only has religion to remind her of her family.

Pi, even at that young age, sees the majestic Richard Parker as something more than an animal, sees the tiger’s soul in his eyes.

Anyway, Pi grows up, falls in love, but is separated from the ugly girl when the family sets sail on a Japanese ship, with all the zoo animals in tow, headed to France. In comes a terrible storm which sinks the ship – it’s honestly pretty freaky, but the 3D glasses sort of blurred it all – and we’re presented with one of the most horrifying images. A drowning Pi watches the giant ship sink right before his eyes, but he fights his way to the surface and makes his way to the giant raft that would be his home from now on. His housemates are a bloodthirsty hyena, an injured zebra, an orangutan and Richard Parker.

The maniacal hyena kills off the zebra and the monkey, and turns his eyes to Pi, but Richard comes to his rescue – in a way.

Okay, enough of the summary thing. I’m sure no one reading this wants a blow-by-blow of what happens.

So, what works for this movie is the amazing graphics; whenever night falls, the water lies as still as a corpse and lights up with a surreal fluidity – very dramatic!

It takes a while before one can figure out that Pi is actually losing it, hence the neon nights. He comes across a floating island that turns toxic at night, an almost biblical plague of flying fish, and lots more. But the most beautiful scene is at sunset, when, among the stillness of the water, we flow in and out of the water and through the fluffy clouds. It all looks like a Michaelangelo painting (think Sistine Chapel ceiling) that would bring a tear to the eyes of any sceptic.

Another is when we dive into the water through Richard Parker’s eyes and emerge out of Pi’s consciousness, with the darkest of graphic underwater images.

What doesn’t work as effectively is the whole religion angle. I mean, yeah, the tiger is symbolic of Pi’s undeterred faith in “God”, and sure he lets go of him without so much as a backward glance upon reaching safety, but seriously! What’s up with that? And that’s not a problem I have with the movie, I guess that’s just something wrong in the book itself. However, I do agree that Pi’s story is such that one can’t help but give it a second thought.

Now, on to the acting. Okay, Irrfan Khan is enthralling as always, Tabu was the sweetest mum any one can hope for and sort of stays with you for the length of the movie, however, the Pi we spend most of our time with, Suraj Sharma, does not really have much of an “acting” role. I’ll commend him for the physical aspect of his acting, and I guess that does matter in its own way, but when you think about it, anyone could have played that role really.

All things in consideration, this really isn’t the kind of movie you can let slip. Use the money you were saving up for Twilight (girlfriends gasp!) and go for Life of Pi. Chances are, she’ll bawl like a baby – my sister provided the comic relief for me – but it’s a story you should catch on the big screen.


Rohan Dahiya

Image Source []