Life of Pi: A gripping tale finely executed

MUMBAI: When Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain) helms a film, the least you can expect from him is a saga with insights and with his newest film Life of Pi, he doesn‘t disappoint. He takes the seemingly impossible-to-film book, written by Yann Martel, and transforms it into a visual delight with 3D and CGI thrown in for good effect. Not since Avatar have these two been used with better results though 3D has since gone on to be a widely used filmmaking tool.

Life of Pi seeks to encompass a wide array of emotions and situations and succeeds in all of them. The result is a film about finding faith, the triumph of human endeavour, coming of age and childlike delight all seamlessly woven together without missing a beat. And, considering that most of the film has only one boy and a tiger adrift on the Pacific Ocean on a life boat, that is saying a lot. Even the otherwise overused ‘voiceover‘ tool is so well used it becomes unnoticeable.

It is the story of a young boy, Pi, and his family moving bag and baggage and a hold full of zoo animals from Puducherry to North Amerca on a ship. When the ship sinks in a storm, Pi and a handful of animals are the only survivors. The ménage of animals is gradually reduced to only Richard Parker, the tiger. How Pi manages to tame the wild beast to form an uneasy and easily broken truce, gives the thrust to the film. It is almost impossible to believe that the tiger is largely CG though for some scenes Bengal tigers were used for reference.

But alone on the ocean, Pi‘s mind wanders and as the director takes you through some of the fantasy he experiences, the viewer gasps in delight at the sheer beauty of the imagination. With the physical and the metaphysical so well blending into each other it‘s almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. Truly, suspension of disbelief was never more rewarding.

Some debuts are just meant to happen and such is the case with young Pi, Suraj Sharma, who is entirely believable and will be a talent to watch for in the coming years. While Irrfan Khan and Tabu, in short roles are as competent as they are expected to be, Adil Hussain, as Pi‘s father caps his unconventional career with another brilliant performance.

But, of course, this is Ang Lee‘s film, one of the best directors of contemporary times.

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