An Enchanting Tale


The film Life of Pi unfolds like a magical kaleidoscope writes Roopank Chaudhary

Highly acclaimed books always put immense pressure on their movie versions, and Life of Pi is no different. Yann Martel’s award winning book was vivid in description and poetic in narrative, and Ang Lee’s movie manages to come close to both elements, which is commendable.

The story of a young shipwrecked boy alone on a lifeboat with a tiger for company is less about survival and more about the surreal situation that the survival arises out of. Lee’s special effects are stunning to say the least and most of the movie is a pure visual treat. Right from the terror unleashed by the stormy seas to the myriad blues of the ocean, every single frame is picture perfect; and at times you sail along with the languid pace of the movie as if you were reading the book on a lazy hazy Sunday afternoon. The green of the islands, the grey of the skies, the moods of the water, the derision of the tiger – each and every detail is finely crafted as scene after scene unfolds like a magic kaleidoscope.

Where the movie falters a bit is the casting. Agreed that Irfan Khan and Tabu brought to life the protagonists in Jhumpa Lahiri’s sensitive Namesake, but not every Indian pair in Hollywood needs to be the same vintage. Tabu has little to say while Irfan seems to ham through his narrative. The young Pi played by Suraj Sharma does a decent job, especially when it comes to the escapades with the tiger and the efforts to survive at sea, but appears amateurish in his dialogue delivery and in the blink-and-miss romantic scenes. Adil Hussain is perhaps the only human actor who flourishes as the disciplined father and zoo keeper, as he teaches his son Pi the hard truths of life. Watch out for the scene where he shows young Pi how tigers can never be befriended – as chilling a scene as the reminder that the prey can never make friends with the predator.  But perhaps the best performance is that of Richard Parker – the fierce Bengal tiger who first stakes claim on the boat in dramatic fashion and then grudgingly accedes ground to the defiant Pi, before making peace with his original adversary.

Like many other book inspired movies, a few sub plots have been removed like the sequence where Pi goes blind, meets a fellow castaway who has become a cannibal and is saved by Parker. One wishes that the complete story would have beenfilmed, given that Lee has pulled off making this so close to perfection. Life of Pi the book is less about the characters and more of the vivid imagery of the sights and scenes that each page reveals slowly; thankfully Lee’s magical depiction on screen does exactly that and leaves you with an enthralling experience of watching the  enchanting tale come to life.

Roopank Chaudhary currently works as Director – Financial Institutions (FI) at a MNC Management Consulting Firm in Mumbai. Previously worked as a Corporate Banker at a MNC Bank in Delhi.