As the reels would unfold on the screen, through the silent passage of glistening light that shone from the projector, images that surpassed the real dimension and made it into a visual reality came alive. Those were the times of the Lumiere Brothers where capturing something real like “the arrival of a train” was considered extravagant and celebrated in all it’s glory. Being a cinephile, I am often disappointed to never have witnessed an event that changed the history of cinema or gave the world a movie that lives on for light years ahead of its time. My parents had their Mughal-e-Azam and the legend Raj Kapoor, while all I had to boast of was Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and the cinematic brilliance of Rajkumar Hirani.
Until today I was still awaiting that life changing moment that I would find in the solace of a dark theatre with strangers as my only witnesses and then ……….as the lights dimmed Hindustani classical music engulfed us into the world of Piscine Molitor, where Spirituality wasn’t apart from Practicality and not the fittest but the most faithful survived. 3D technology came to India more than a decade ago in the form of “Chota Chetan” or “My Dear Kuttichathan” but apart from the West which have exploited the potential of a 3D universe in their path breaking Avatar, no other movie has used this technique to evoke emotions and look beyond what is seen by our naked eyes As I witnessed the birth of Ang Lee’s miraculous adventure “Life of Pi” nothing I saw was unreal yet it looked like an alter universe, that I was travelling in a time capsule. It was an India that exists in actuality and yet stemmed out of pure imagination. From the opening sequence where the animals invite you to be a part of their fantastical journey to life till the introduction of the hero of our story “our Tiger’ PI, every moment is sketched out and painted meticulously by the hands of an artist who is in awe of his creation.
Life of Pi which is a book written by Yann Martel talks about a boy from Pondicherry who embarks on a journey of self-actualisation and realisation after being stranded on a boat post a horrific ship wreck. This may seem like a story read to kids but often the simplest stories teach us the most profound lessons of life. And in this case those lessons are taught to us by the four living non-humans who are stranded along with Pi on the boat. Ang Lee has taken this story and adapted it in such a way that the reader and non reader both can experience the cinematic grandeur in a holistic manner, without being overshadowed by the identity of the book or the lack of it . The entire movie is a narration by the older version of Pi to an author who is suffering from a writers block and is in search of a story worth telling. As he recalls his childhood that was spent among species of another kind in a zoo he called home ,we understand the mindset of a child who is curious about the vast world and all the knowledge it holds within it. From Lord Vishnu who is his protector to Pi’s religion which doesn’t limit itself to one belief but encompasses all, we realise that the story is not just a tale for our hearts but also for our minds. Pi’s eagerness to experience the world and all it has around it from behind the bars of his small town in India is a brilliant establishing point for the story which gives Pi exactly what he is searching for all his life- the power to believe in one force.
The ship wreck sequence is according to me the highlight of the film as it breaks through the 3rd dimension and make you suffocate with Pi and feel as helpless and vulnerable as he feels when the water starts clogging and he is pushed onto the boat. Amidst the storms and lightening Ang Lee manages to yet keep the visuals magnificent and horrific at the same moment. Lashing of the winds and crashing of the under currents bottled up with the piercing screams of Pi saying “I’m sorry amma, i Am sorry Appa’ hanging off the edge of the lifeboat, make for dramatic visuals and devastating images of pain. As the scene ends and the calm after the storm envelops you, another parallel universe resurrects itself . We find ourselves in the middle of the gigantic pacific Ocean. As we float away with Pi entering a new realm of the world outside our cage, new playmates join us on our voyage. On ‘Pi’s Ark ‘ is an injured zebra, a Loud Hyena and an orangutan called ” Orange Juice” who arrives in a spectacular style floating on bananas. As we understand the behavioural differences of these animals and the basic instinct of survival of the fittest that they all possess the story gives us a lesson about the cannibalisitc tendency of animals when they have to fend for themselves. Pi’s boat is a mere reflection of various Evils we possess within us which society suppresses because of the norms of community upbringing. As we float away into a world where mankind is non existent and all we have is the sky overhead along with a ferocious tiger for company, Ang Lee teaches us lessons of life and beyond through his enigmatic narrative of a simple tale of real fantasy.
As a viewer nothing was left to my imagination and yet at the end of the journey Ang Lee still manages to turn the tables and make you question your belief system . Life of Pi jolts you out of your comfort zone of larger than life materialism and makes you look beyond the seven seas while making you look inwards. The land with cannibalistic powers and the tiger with his hunger, the dying and the loss of humanism are significant symbols in this movie that shows you an inner Evil self that exists in all of us. Pi asks the author in the end which story would he choose the one with the tiger or that which he narrated to the press. But for me Pi was actually posing a question to mankind, asking us whether we prefer to accept our true nature which is equally dangerous as that of the tiger or do we still live in ignorance of the inner evil we all possess.
What do you Believe in?
The post is written by Srishti Jain.