Ang Lee’s masterful new film centers on a teenager who is adrift at sea on a lifeboat for 227 days, with a fierce Bengal tiger. Riveting and breathtaking, “Life of Pi” is an edge-of-your-seat 3D adventure starring newcomer Suraj Sharma taking on the lead role as Pi.
Based on Yann Martel’s best-selling, award-winning novel, the movie tells a deeply inspiring story about hope, courage and the strength of the human spirit. Piscine Patel, (known as Pi) lives with his zoo keeping family in Pondicherry, India. They decide to emigrate to Canada, taking their animals along with them and set off on a huge freighter ship, steaming from India across the Pacific with plans to sell their other animals to Manila Zoo along their journey. But a terrible storm destroys the ship. The family and most of the animals perish. Pi survives, stranded on a lifeboat with several animals.
Sharma dominates the film but there is a diverse and impressively strong supporting cast including French actor Gérard Depardieu and Indian actor Irrfan Khan who plays the older Pi, settled in Canada later in life. Indian actors Tabu and Adil Hussain play Pi’s parents. British actor Rafe Spall plays the writer who is interviewing Pi about his life-changing voyage.
Irrfan Khan who plays the grown up Pi is India’s recent Padma Shri awardee recognizing his contributions to the Indian Cinema. Khan has recently appeared in “Partition,” “A Mighty Heart” and “The Amazing Spiderman.”
Also a Padma Shri awardee, Tabu who plays Gita Patel, the mother of Pi is widely considered one of the finest and most versatile actresses in the Indian film industry who has appeared in over 70 films. She holds the record for the most wins of Filmfare's Critics Award for Best Female Performer, with six. Tabu received worldwide recognition and widespread critical acclaim for her leading role in Mira Nair's American film “The Namesake.” Known to be selective about her film roles, Tabu has said, “I do films which move me and most of all, the unit and the director should appeal to me.”
Rafe Spall who portrays the writer in the movie who interviews the grown up Pi is one of Britain’s rising stars. Recently seen in Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” he has also appeared in “One Day” and “Anonymous.” Gerard Depardieu who plays the ship’s cook is widely renowned for his versatility and his unique combination of gentleness and brutish physicality. The award-winning actor has enjoyed a film career spanning more than four decades, and has appeared in over 170 films.
Ang Lee has in fact created a film that is powerful, engrossing and visually stunning. “It is about overcoming adversity and that speaks to a lot of people because in a sense, life is adversity,” says 20th Century Fox’s Elizabeth Gabler, discussing the life-affirming movie.
“Finding ways to overcome that adversity is what makes life not only easier, but more meaningful. The film transcends language barriers and age barriers; this is a movie that people of all ages, all nationalities and cultures can watch and enjoy. Hopefully you will come away with a great feeling about the spirit of mankind that will inspire you. It is about having faith in your own strength and how your inner character pulls you through life.”
“If you can dance instead of just walking, if you can splash your walls with color instead of painting them white or beige, that’s good,” muses Yann Martel. “It makes your life richer, more meaningful. We’re only here for a brief time, we have seventy, eighty years, which go by so quickly, and that being the case, why not make more of it?”. . .which in essence is what LIFE OF PI is all about.
“Life of Pi” opened last January 9 and still showing in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox, distributed by Warner Bros.