Direction: Ang Lee
Screenplay by: David Magge, Based on the novel by Yann Martel.
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall.
Plot: Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) is an Indian immigrant from Pondicherry who works in Montreal in Canada as a university lecturer. He is approached by a local novelist, Yann Martel (Rafe Spall) who is struggling with his writing and is in need for an inspirational story. Upon meeting, Pi agrees and begins to tell him his amazing life story. He explains the origin of his peculiar name. He is named after a famous and beautiful public swimming pool in France “Piscine Molitor”. For obvious reasons his name becomes a burden for him whilst at school and is known as “Pissing Patel”. Into his second year he renames himself as “Pi”. He is brought up in a Hindu family. His father Santosh (Adil Hussain) is a strict and caring father and runs a local zoo, his mother Gita (Tabu) is a gentle and loving mother. He has an older brother, Ravi, and a happy childhood. He has an open and curious mind and begins to wonder and accept other religions such as Christianity and Islam. His curiosity leads him to one day approaching a caged tiger (named Richard Parker due to a clerical error) and is scolded by his father who warns him of the tiger´s carnivorous and wild nature and is never to be trusted like a pet animal. At the age of sixteen (Suraj Sharma) and experiencing teenage love with a local girl of his age he is distraught to learn that his father has decided to sell the zoo animals in Canada and move the family there for a better future. They embark on a Japanese cargo ship to cross the Pacific with all the animals in the deck towards their new life. However in the midst of their journey they are hit by a heavy storm and the ship is wrecked. Pi manages to save himself and is hurled onto a lifeboat with an injured zebra. A mother orangutan and much to his shock, the tiger Richard Parker also climb into the lifeboat. He later finds out a hyena has also managed to climb in. Weakened, he is unable to protect the orangutan and the zebra from the hyena who is later attacked by Richard Parker who was hiding inside the boat. Scared of the tiger, Pi builds a small raft attached to the boat with a rope. He survives on emergency supplies and rain water, tries to confront the tiger and even cohabit with him occasionally failing obviously due to the animal´s wild nature and growing hunger. Observing that on the raft he is more vulnerable to shark attacks and soon from the tiger itself, he resolves that he must “master” it and so begins to catch fish in order to feed him. He eventually succeeds and can spend time on the boat in relative safety. At the highest point of desperation due to weakness and dehydration they being to bond. Shortly they find a small island with fresh water, vegetables for Pi and meerkats for Richard Parker. They recoup their strength and hope. At night, however the animals behave in a strange and frightened way and Richard Parker rushes off to the boat, Pi whilst trying to sleep finds a plant with a human tooth in it and observes how the fresh water at night becomes acidic killing the fish. He resolves the island is carnivorous and decides to leave the following morning with plenty of supplies for him and the tiger. They eventually hit the coast of Mexico. Completely starved and weakened Pi lands on the sand unable to move and observes how the tiger with whom he had survived and bonded leaves into the jungle without even looking back and is heartbroken with his egoistic behavior. He later finds out he is the sole human survivor of the wreck and is approached by two insensitive and overbearing Japanese insurance agents who want to find out what happened. They find his story unbelievable and so Pi to ease them off his back recounts a different story. Coming back to the present day, Yanet notices the parallels between the characters in both stories but prefers to the first version.
Critique: The Life of Pi makes a stupendous use of 3D technology; bringing life and color to the screen beautifully from the very first scene. Ang Lee portrays a story full of sensitivity, joy, tragedy, despair and the indomitable will to survive. Enhanced by 3D Graphics we see the action through the eyes of a teenage boy with an open and curious mind, his love for adventure and new experiences is best reflected when even when recently shipwrecked and orphaned, he can enjoy the beauty of the ocean in the scene with the glowing fishes. The parallel personalities of Pi and the tiger are also hinted occasionally when the boy masters the beast, showing in fact that both creatures must have being equally scared of the new situation whilst discovering how to deal with it.
Pi Patel (Gautam Belur/Suraj Sharma/ Irrfan Khan) – Pi whose original name is Piscine Molitor (named after a beautiful public swimming pool in France) is a boy who grows up in Pondicherry. During his first year at school he has to bear with an uncomfortable nickname “Pissing Patel” so as soon as he gets the chance he renames himself as “Pi”. He enjoys a relatively happy childhood constantly exploring new sources of knowledge. He has an open and curious mind. Brought up in a Hindu family he also adopts Christianity and Islam later on in his childhood. His curiosity leads him once to get too close to a caged tiger and his father berates him for this and warns him that a tiger is a carnivorous and wild beast, not a pet animal one could trust. This however does not prevent him for seeing similarities in the tiger and his own personality. As a teenager he takes an interest in music and starts to play the “tabla” and meets a girl for whom he falls in innocent teenage love. Like Richard Parker, the tiger, Pi is a survivor and a fighter and is the sole survivor of the ship wreck. His initial fear of the distressing situation is mirrored by the tiger´s. Both are equally scared of each other at the beginning of their journey and cannot share the boat so Pi builds a supplementary raft where he feels safe from the beast. He is aware of the growing dangers from approaching sharks and the rising hunger from the tiger himself knowing for sure that it’s a matter of time before the feline´s hunger gets the better of him and pounces on him. His survival instinct enables him to quickly learn how to catch fish and feed them to Richard Parker. Upon having the power to do so he gradually masters him and ends up sharing the boat in relative safety. In his lowest hours of weakness and despair he bonds with the tiger and weeps for his family feeling guilty at having taunted the skies “With more Rain” when the storm started lashing out at the ship. As a grown man, we see him as an intelligent, eloquent and witty lecturer. He is an open and friendly man who treats his guest, Yann, with courtesy and hospitality whilst telling him life story.
Gita Patel (Tabu) – portrayed beautifully by the lovely Tabu, Gita, Pi’s mother is a sensitive and caring mother. She understands him best of all and usually sides with him more than his father and even his brother. She is supportive of her husband despite she may not always agree with him. Later on the story, it is indicated that in the official report that Pi gives to the Japanese insurance agents, she might have survived with Pi and two others on the boat but later pushed off it by the cook (instead of the animals). Her caring and doting nature being reflected in the mother orangutan that has also lost her child was shown in the official report which the writer chooses not to believe.
Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain) – Santosh is a zoo keeper and Pi’s father. He is strict and caring at the same time of his family. He wants to protect Pi from outside dangers like the zoo´s tiger even though if that involves in teaching him a lesson that can scar him psychologically (making him witness how the tiger kills a goat). He respects Pi for being open minded and prefers him have a different point of view from him rather than agreeing with him all the time.
The Cook (Gerad Depadieu) – The family have a brief and nasty encounter with the ship´s cook, an obnoxious and insensitive person who does not understand the needs of a vegetarian family and has a rude attitude with Gita when requested a vegetarian option. His personality is later mirrored in the hyena´s own selfish and cowardly behavior.