5 out of 5
Do you know that 2/3 of the film was shot in Taiwan? The first scene with the animals was shot in Taipei Zoo, near the place I used to live, and the scenes about Pi’s childhood in Pondicherry was shot on a set in Taichung. Apparently Ang Lee asked for Indian students who live in Taiwan to join the cast as extras. Which was why when I watched this film I was trying to point out my friends who worked as extras.
Trivia aside. This film was wonderful, almost as wonderful as the book. The first time I read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, I was experiencing a different kind of adventure. A cast away expererience without screaming “Wilson… Wilson…!” (I do think Tom Hank in Cast Away was brilliant). But Pi drifted between fantasy and reality, making the reader trying to figure out which were the facts on his bizarre adventure. But truthfully you want everything to be the reality, after all many of strange things happen in real life.
Fortunately the film captured the book well, of course the cinematography was breathtaking, although in some parts you could see it was courtesy of the green screen (the storm scene *cough*). Nineteen year old actor Suraj Sharma, proved that he was a mean debutante, playing his first role as the titular Pi Patel. Not far from being a teenager himself, Suraj Sharma captured Pi’s awkwardness perfectly. An Indian boy who was named after a beautiful Parisian swimming pool, whose family owned a zoo, and who tried to figure out the meaning of life since early age. Most part of the book was told in first person narrative, but somehow the narration translated well into the silver screen. As Pi survived in the magnificent wonders of the ocean – with a bengal tiger, an orangutan, a hyena, and a zebra – we could see how he grew up. He became alert, strong, and wise. But the fragile youth underneath could still be seen clearly. So kudos for Sharma’s layered acting.
Irfan Khan who played adult Pi was good. Well, what could I say about him? That guy always plays his character with great depth and subtlety. But I couldn’t really catch Tabu’s acting as she played Pi’s beautiful mother. Tabu is a Bollywood heavy weight, so I expected something deep coming from her. But apparently her portrayal as Pi’s loving, but determined mother fell flat. Adil Hussain as Pi’s father was terrific. He was a complicated character who believed in teaching his sons lessons through what sometimes appeared to be quite extreme. The lessons were valuable nevertheless.
Overall the film was great and it flowed smoothly. My thirst for adventure, drama and fantasy was definitely quenched.