Monday, November 26, 2012

Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi is hardly the emotional tour de force it was made out to be. At the end of it, I was more puzzled by its bluntness in delivering the "message". The film's religious undertones, or in this case, not-so-under tones, had me wishing it were a little more subtle. There are too many in-your-face moments. No, the 3D is fine. I'm referring to conversations where subtlety is dispensed in favor of obviousness. For instance, there's this deeply thought provoking moment which had me thinking how differently we react to the deaths of an Orangutan and that of a fish, which got ruined with Pi saying,"Thank you Vishnu for coming to us in the form of this fish." 

In the house of faith, I live on the second floor in the room of doubt. I totally understand the necessity of having something to unconditionally believe in. Religion is a very good concept when looked upon as a way of life more than anything else. But it is imperative for followers to not be a sponge and absorb every last bit of nonsense. Talking about faith in a higher authority is never easy and trying to put the various faiths into a context and giving each its own share of space and reverence is some task. I am not able to make up my mind as to whether the film is philosophically ambitious or pretending to be one, hiding behind the skirt of dazzling pictures. 

More than anything, Life of Pi reminded me of Tim Burton's fantastic Big Fish. Pi is a fantasy film which asks you to believe. Not just believe it within the framework of a movie, but believe miracles can happen in the world we belong in. For me, the question is not whether I choose to believe. My problem is Pi bites more than it can chew. The things which happen over the course of 227 days may be hard to believe. But, if I say I do, what does it amount to? Does dressing a gritty cut-throat story in fantasy make it all the more believable? Is reality harder to digest? The concept of religion itself  wouldn't exist were it more rationalized? We need the fantasy. We want the enigma. We pretend we want to know the answers, but we are only too happy to live the puzzle. Maybe we can't handle the truth. Maybe I have no idea what I am talking about. 

I have always had trouble watching Indian actors in Hollywood films. They have this language handicap which I expect them to overcome in order to impress me. That happens very occasionally, and only in few select scenes when it does. Suraj Sharma, who plays Pi Patel, is uneven and there were moments where I wished Lee had dealt in silences. But full marks for his physical acting. I cannot imagine how tiring the whole task was. Irrfan Khan is good as the older Pi. I often saw shades of Irrfan in Suraj; or it could have been the other way round, I am not sure. The film's best performance, though, is given by a computer generated Tiger

A fellow reviewer had noted how it doesn't take one to believe in God to admire Life of Pi and how belief in Cinema would alone suffice.Well, the film sure is a towering achievement bringing to life a vision so unique. But the "message" may not be to everyone's liking. You can try to ignore it but it is present everywhere you look. The life lessons Pi gets as a kid from his Mother and Father, his subsequent loss of innocence come to play a role in his ordeal, but his journey of a lifetime felt too convenient. If I try to keep myself content with the tale of undying human spirit conquering all odds, I still have a better option in Cast Away to turn to. I never really felt compelled to root for Pi. Nothing soared anywhere inside me when his feet touched solid ground. Nothing really changed. A copy of Life of Pi will be a value addition to your bluray collection, giving your Avatar copy some much needed rest. That's all there is to it.