“Do you believe me?” an older Pi asks the writer who has just heard him narrate the unbelievable story of a boy who survived a Tiger in the Pacific after a shipwreck.
“It’s a lot to take in,” replies the writer.
I found myself with the same response when people asked me after the Indian premiere at the International Film Festival of India, Goa.
For a good hour and a half, the middle portion of the film to be specific, the film is a delightfully riveting visual treat, as Pi finds himself on the boat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger.
If the idea of Pi telling the writer the story was to make him believe in God, Ang Lee sure has succeeded in making us believe in a God that made it possible for words from a Booker-winning book come alive. And how!
The storm that causes the shipwreck and the aftermath - the interplay between the four survivors in a small confined space in the middle of the ocean is fascinatingly etched out.
No dialogues, just computer generated animals with a brilliant debutant Suraj Sharma and Ang Lee crafting magic realism, playing 3D-savvy God.
For almost an hour in the 127 minute long film, it’s just the boy and the tiger. Kids would love to watch this stuff with their mouths wide open. But despite all the jaw dropping awe that the film evokes, it does carry the baggage of philosophy from the book and that’s what makes it a little too long and less market-savvy.
This is not to say it’s bad cinema. It’s as good as it gets if watched in the context of a book that delves deep into religion and God and an understanding of his mysterious ways. These are the portions that may be too much to take for the younger audience that would prefer the spectacle over the philosophy but if you are in the right mood and space for a spiritual journey, Life of Pi is just what you need. IF you are willing to overlook the inconsistency and assortment of different variants of Indian and Canadian accents employed in the film (Tabu's Tamil being the most irksome), you may find little else to complain about.
Young Suraj Sharma couldn't have asked for a better debut and performs like a veteran. This is a performance that will instantly make people draw comparisons with Tom Hanks in Castaway and Suraj wouldn't fare any less in the contest. We shouldn't be surprised if Richard Parker (the computer generated tiger) gets a nomination for best supporting role, that’s how convincing the visual effects are.
It’s hard to tell where cinematography (Claudio Miranda) ends and visual effects begin, especially when you see a magical island full of meerkats. Technically, the film seems set for a big haul at the Oscars.
Just surrender to this movie magic, strictly with your 3D glasses on. For you surely wouldn't have seen anything like this before. Even if it's a little longer than you would've liked.
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Shravanthi Sainath
Storyline: A 16 year old boy has to survive a hungry Bengal tiger on a boat after a shipwreck
Bottomline: A visually stunning spectacle that rises above the book's philosophical verbosity