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Life of Pi
The first time I came across the spine of Yann Martel's award-winning novel "Life of Pi", the title made no sense to me at all. Of course, I knew what pi is. It's the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter equal to 3.14, but I saw no plausible connection between life and the mathematical constant at all.
"What a curious title for a book," I even thought, and carried on with whatever I was doing back then. Little did I know that such an oddly-named novel would be adapted into one of the best films I will see a few years later.
Pi - Piscine Molitor Patel (Irrfan Khan) - is a man of many faiths. Born a Hindu, he later finds interest in Catholicism and Islam, practising the three religions altogether. And as though being a follower of three different religious sects isn't enough, he also gives lectures in Kabbalah at the university.
As a boy, Pi had always been taunted at because of his name, which his parents got from a swimming pool in France. He was an intelligent, inquisitive, and spirited young lad, who lived in a government-supported zoo ran by his family in Pondicherry, India.
But the rustic life he lives is about to change when his father decides to migrate to Canada and sell their animals in the hopes of giving his family a better future - much to Pi's dismay. Together with the zoo animals they acquired through the years, the Patel family (consisting of the now 16 year-old Pi (Suraj Sharma), his father, mother, and older brother) boards a Japanese freighter, but their journey is cut short when the ship meets a thunderstorm, and Pi becomes the only survivor.
Adrift on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean, Pi realises that he is not the only one who managed to escape the ship, but a few of his family's most-prized zoo animals - a zebra, an orangutan a spotted hyena, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker - survived as well.
But as the law of nature and nutrition goes, the hyena goes for the kill to fill its hungry stomach, and the zebra and orangutan fall as its preys. However, the link of the food chain doesn't end there, and Richard Parker finishes the hyena off and its previous victims.
Afraid that the last meal the tiger will have would be a thin vegetarian boy, Pi finds a way to tame and keep his feline company satisfied, while living one day at a time.
Deemed as impossible to film, you can say that Life of Pi is a movie miracle. With the perfect fusion of Academy Award-winner Ang Lee's directing, top-of-the-line CGI animation, and impeccable acting from newcomer Suraj Sharma, this film defies all odds, and becomes an instant favourite amongst moviegoers.
Now, I don't think I'll be flipping through the pages of the book soon enough (even if I want to), but the movie gave me an idea of what to expect from the best-seller that sold over seven million copies, since its publication in 2001.
Life of Pi gives a new definition to faith and survival. It doesn't have the melodrama of a corny religious film, nor the stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feel of a cheap movie about a tragedy survivor. The different faiths incorporated in the story creates an environment free of religious bias.
The movie also explores the many wonders of nature, which were all astonishing to see. From bioluminisecent waters and thousands of flying fish to a sea of meerkats in a carnivorous island, Life of Pi gives its audience a different perspective of the world.
Having said that, Life of Pi is simply a treat to the eyes. Whether watched in 3D or not, it's what viewers, who have long been waiting for some movie magic, are looking for. It has the most vivid colours of a Walt Disney fairytale and the advanced animation technology similar-to-but-maybe-better than Avatar. In its two-hour plus run time, I couldn't help but marvel at every scenery captured and created by the talented crew of the film.
Moreover, he man behind the miracle, director Ang Lee tackled the story with great ingenuity, and his superb directing is reflected in the movie. I've seen his films before, which were all brilliant. But I must say, none of them compares with Life of Pi - a true oeuvre of a silver screen virtuoso.
And, what's an extraordinary film without an extraordinary protagonist? Erm, human protagonist in this case...
Sure, everybody loved the majestic Richard Parker - a creation of CGI animators from the US, Canada, India, and Malaysia (it took 15 artists to perfect his fur), but big screen newbie Suraj Sharma is the real deal!
A college student in New Delhi, Sharma never thought that he would win the most-coveted role of Pi, beating over 3,000 hopefuls, including his brother, who asked his company to the audition, bribing him with a Subway sandwich in the process. As a joke, Sharma said in a TV guesting, "Well, I went into subway and walked out with Pi."
But his lack of knowledge in the world of acting didn't stop him from playing the character expected of him. To be fit for the role, Sharma learned how to swim, trained to have a better posture, gained 13 kilos for the beginning of the movie, and later worked his way to lose 14 for the ocean scenes. If that's not enough dedication to you, I don't know what is.
Perhaps, his rawness helped Sharma deliver Pi naturally. It was all in there, the pain, the happiness, and everything in between. His acting was comparable to that of a pro's, ruling out amateurism. Through Pi, he has truly proven that he is someone worth watching out for.
Since its release in November 21, 2012, Life of Pi has already raked in various awards and nominations, including a Golden Globe win for Best Original Score by Mychael Danna (they lost in the Best Motion Picture - Drama Category to Argo, and Ang Lee was an inch shy from winning Best Director, which was bagged by Ben Affleck for Argo), and 11 nominations for this year's Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
But awards won't measure nor define the mastery of this film at all. With golden statues or not, Life of Pi is a winner in its own.