When in Manila, the Life of Pi gave us two stories. After putting down the book – you will ask yourself, what is the true story? The one with the animals or the one with human?
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel which was first published in 2001, is probably the most thought-provoking, and most discussed book of all time. Tomorrow, January 9th, the Life of Pi will bring us to many years, three continents, two oceans, and wide universe of imagination and the unknown.
I got the chance to see the Life of Pi during its Press Screening last Sunday. Now, let me tell you a story..
What do I know about Pi? For someone who has never read the book, all I know is that it is a story of survival.. with a fearsome Bengal Tiger.
The Life of Pi begins and ends in Montreal with a writer who is seeking inspiration and stumble upon the story of Piscine Militor Patel. The writer said that he encounters a local who told him Pi has a story which will make him believe in God. Pi who grew up in India is a son of zoo keeper. His life is surrounded by tigers, zebras, hippos and other exotic animals. As a young boy, he struggles everyday as he was taunted for his name – Piscine Patel (Pissing Patel) – as he was named after a swimming pool in France. When he begins the secondary school, he changes his name to “Pi” – a mathematical constant.
Growing up, Pi found interest in three different religion – Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. You will see him observing Hinduism with over a hundred Gods, doing a sign of the cross before a meal, and finding solace in an afternoon prayer with Allah.
One interesting lesson Pi has learned when he was young – “tiger is not your friend” as stressed by Mr. Patel when Pi tried to befriend a Bengal tiger. But again, how did he survived with only a tiger when stranded in the middle of Pacific Ocean?
The story progresses as the family chooses to migrate to Canada and his parents decides to sell the zoo. Aboard a Japanese cargo ship with some of the animals, the family traveled across seas. In the ship, they encounter a sadistic French Chef.
Late at night, the ship sinks but Pi miraculously survives. He is cast in the middle of the Pacific Ocean aboard a boat with a zebra, hyena and an orangutan (which later on did not survive). He is left with only one companion – Richard Parker. He must be lucky to have a companion, you might think. Richard Parker is a ferocious tiger.
They embark on their adventure for 227 days, as they learn to co-exist.The castaways face unimaginable challenges, and experienced the nature’s majestic grandeur, beauty and fury.
The boat found itself onto the coast of Mexico and Richard Parker escapes to where he belongs – to the jungle.
The officials of Japanese Ministy of Transport speak to Pi to understand why the ship sank. When Pi told them the story of his survival, they didn’t believe him. He then tells an alternate story of human brutality and survival – Pi was in a boat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg and the French chef. The French chef killed the sailor to survive, but his mom got angry – which led the French chef to kill her too – which led him to kill the French chef. Can you relate the human representation to the zebra, hyena, orangutan and tiger?
The officials believed the human story, but the older Pi asked the writer what he thinks is the better story – and he said, the one with animals.
What do you think is the better story? Which story do you believe in?
What to Expect from the Movie?
From the same director who brought us Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee will bring us to the middle of the deep sea and experience the things that we never want to experience.
As they say, the Life of Pi represents a moment when the science and art of film-making have jumped forward, as it did with the visual effects of “Titanic,” the 3D revolution of “Avatar,” and the CGI work in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. The Life of Pi‘s Richard Parker is a fully-realized, accessible character, whom you’ll believe was actually on that lifeboat with Suraj Sharma, who portrays Pi.
You won’t see the usual Hollywood big stars here – but other than Richard Parker – the Bengal tiger, you will be amazed with the characters.
The three generation of Pi is not a disappointment.
SURAJ SHARMA (Pi Patel) – the son of a mathematician, who has recently lived in the middle-class suburbs of South Delhi with his parents. This boy has no acting experience but was casted after long search through India.
Suraj is musicially inclined and trained in Hindustani vocal and tabla, keyboard and guitar. He has a Junior Black Belt in Seido Karate school at age 13. He is popular in school who is also into sports (soccer).
Amazing trivia, Suraj celebrated his 18th birthday with the film’s crew while shooting the movie in Taiwan.
IRRFAN KHAN (Adult Pi Patel) is a graduate of prestigious National School of Drama (India) and was recently honored by Indian Government for his contribution in Indian Cinema.
He has a list of impressive credentials and he has recently made the transition into English Language films. He recently appeared in Partition and A Mighty Heart – opposite Angelina Jolie. Earlier, he appeared in The Amazing Spider Man.
TABU (Gina Patel) could be mistaken as a Ms. Universe title holder. She has made over 70 films. She holds the record for the most wins of Filmfare’s Critics Award for Best Female Performer, with six.
RAFE SPALL (Writer) is a rising star from Britain. He recently starred in Prometheus and prior was seen in One Day with Anne Hathaway, and in Anonymous starring as William Shakespeare.
GÉRARD DEPARDIEU (cook) is known worldwide for his versatility and unique combination of gentleness and brutish physicality making him the best actor for the role. He has made over 170 films, and played variety of roles including historical figures.
What More to Expect?
The story touches on Theology, Zoology, Psychology, culture, sanity and survival presented to us in an exotic setting and unimaginable scenes while giving us emotions of worry, courage, hope and compassion.
The dialogues (or should I say, monologues) are humorous – at one point would make you think. But with each phase it gives you life lessons.
There are so many Instagram-worthy scenes from hues of magnificent schools of flying fish, luminescent jellyfish, shimmering blues of the ocean, incredible sun rays, and radiant humpback whale that streaks to the surface of the ocean.
The movie brought me back to the ship of Titanic, to an island of the unknown – probably we can call the Neverland, in the middle of the sea (which anyone wouldn’t want to be) and to the rich culture of India – which sealed my travel plans to the country.
The film once again makes me fall in love with the sea as it presents the beauty of marine life, as it defines serenity and calm.. But with one snap, it showed me how nature can sometimes be so unpredictable and strong. It could destroy the strongest – even your will to survive and your faith.
The Life of Pi and his story made us believe to the unbelievable – that is, believing that he did survive the shipwreck for 227 days with only a tiger as his source of strength and will to survive. The movie reflects this idea of believing the unbelievable – by making the viewers believe that Pi (Suraj) is in the same boat as the tiger – in the middle of the great ocean.
The director successfully translated the story and readers’ imagination that made viewers fell for the story more. The movie made us believe the animal’s story is true, but the actor’s great acting will make us believe the human story. Which story do you prefer?
There are some details of the book which are not included in the film (according to a friend), and a few interesting details injected to the movie to make viewers relate to the story more. Some people might think that the book is better than the film. But the film sure brings us to the realms of fantasy and unknown, to the realities of life.
So which one is the better story for you?
The Life of Pi opens on January 9th in Philippine Cinemas
(on 2D and 3D Format)
by 20th Century Fox