Rant and Rave: ‘Life of Pi’

Rating: 4.0
Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Piscine Molitor Patel and Richard Parker are two ordinary names that belong to two extraordinary beings. They may seem like best friends, or perhaps, acquaintances, but no one can really tell, for Richard Parker is a Bengal tiger, and Piscine Molitor – named after a swimming pool in Paris – is an Indian teenager. Thus begins the tale of two different entities, one being the son of the zoo owner, and the other an animal at the zoo.

Based on the bestselling book of the same title by Yann Martel, Life of Pi is a story featuring the 227-day journey of an Indian vegetarian teenager and a menacing Bengal tiger stuck in the Pacific Ocean after a shipwreck threw both of them at the mercy of the high seas. At first sight, the film would initially seem to be lackluster, unless one is an animal enthusiast or a cultural buff interested in all things Indian. However, Life of Pi is far from droll.

Branded by the media as a fantasy movie, it splashed into the theaters delivering more than just fantasy. Combining an old world storyline and modern technological innovations, Academy Award winning director Ang Lee was able to create an out-of-this-world adventure, with hints of suspense and drama peppered all throughout the film.

Even before the shipwreck, Pi (short for Piscine) has always been a curious kid. Pi is curious about everything, up to a point that he believed in three religions – namely Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam – much to the vexation of his father, who wanted him to think only rationally and scientifically. Unfortunately, he did not have much of an opportunity to do exactly that, for his schoolmates constantly bullied him, referring to him as “Pissing Patel”.

After shortening his name to Pi, and impressing his teachers by listing the digits representing the mathematical symbol Pi, he gains a measure of confidence, and puckers enough to court a girl. This confidence was short lived, however, for the family decided to leave India and move to Canada. During the journey, a powerful storm ravages the ship on the Pacific, causing the ship to sink, killing almost everyone inside, except Pi and four animals (a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and Parker).

The film, touted as the next Avatar, may just be a narration of the life and times of Pi and the eccentrically-named Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, but from it comes a wide variety of life lessons, ranging from bullying to academics, family to spirituality, and gut instinct to survival, that serve as timely reminders for every human being who has come across a stumbling block in life at one time or another.

Life of Pi is a movie that offers viewers a small tour of the world through France, India and the Pacific Ocean. However, it is not completely visual, for Mychael Danna’s brilliant music, specifically the track Pi’s Lullaby, was able to fill the atmosphere with as much emotion, making Life of Pi a heartrending film that celebrates all there is to human life, and shows just how strong the human spirit is, and how beautiful life can be if people learn how to trust, believe, and surrender. It will not be surprising if the film reaps accolade after accolade this year.

Stephanie Tan

By Stephanie Tan

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