There are always elements in a well-written novel or short story that will differ in each reading, the perspective on the tale keeps altering in accordance to the reader's age, such that re-reading can be equivalent to making love to a new person each time. At least in saying so, that is. On the other hand, a film in invariably etching out exact scenes in audiovisual storytelling, limits our interpretation. The joy of revisiting a classic movie is of reprise, much like a song’s charm, we don’t mind listening to it again and again.
As our tale begins, Piscine Patel is the younger adolescent second son of a Tamilian zoo owner and his wife growing up in picturesque Pondicherry of the 1970’s. The legend of how Piscine turns to Pi is well-adapted from the book here. Pi’s idyllic life is thwarted, as in trying times, his father decides that the family would move to Canada, sell the zoo animals there and start life afresh. As the zoo creatures and Pi’s family travel in a freight ship, a storm causes the ship to capsize. Pi makes it to a lifeboat by sheer fate, but he is not the lone survivor. He ends up sharing boat space, again by incidence, with a Royal Bengal Tiger, a Hyena, a Zebra and an Orangutan. Drifting aimlessly in the Pacific, with no other human being in sight, and the hungry company aboard, Pi’s fight for survival has just began...
Riveting, humorous, fearful, and arresting in its lifeboat journey parts, charmingly magical in its opening Pondicherry bits and meandering in all the god talk and flashback medium, Life of Pi has moments that 3D enhances. The background score is fitting if not overwhelming, and Suraj Sharma as Pi makes it work, as do the animal special effects. Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Adil Hussain give good performances in their brief parts. Finally, Life of Pi works in its excellent interpretation of what seemed ‘unfilmable’ on paper. It is in the animal-human face off that the circle of life message gets through, rather than the god talk, which spoils it a bit for putting in too many words and put-on emotions in the narrative. But finally, in totality, Life of Pi has enough cinematic merit and visual magic to be watched on the big screen - totally recommended!