Posts Tagged ‘Yann Martel’

Wouldn’t it be very boring if we all start liking the same things – no arguments, no fights. And that’s the beauty of  cinema – a divided house, because it means different things to different people. So while i wasn’t sure about the “faith” factor in this week’s release, Life Of Pi, here’s a post by Suprateek Chatterjee who thinks otherwise – have faith, will sail.

A software engineer by degree, Suprateek is passionate about cinema as well as music, and on weekends, can be found writing, composing and playing new music for his electro-rock band Vega Massive. He harbours a strong dislike for pretentious attitudes, Salman Khan fans and Andheri station. Currently at Hindustan Times as features writer/film critic.

Until the age of ten, I used to be quite religious. More than religion, it was mythology that fascinated me. C Rajagopalchari’s versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata occupied a place of pride on my bookshelf, next to my prized Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys and R L Stine’s Fear Street series. I had another book, Tales From The Bible, part of my Catechism/Moral Science curriculum in Don Bosco School, Delhi, where I studied for four years. I was fascinated by the stories, wildly improbable as they seem now, and would often characterise myself according to them.

Alas, I eventually grew up and turned to atheism. However, while the myth stopped appealing to me, the stories didn’t. Over the years, I realised that a part of being religious is accepting a myth blindly, no matter how incredible it sounds. It doesn’t make you smarter or stupider – or better or worse – to give yourself to the myth, and take back the right lessons (whatever those may be).

I read Yann Martel’s Life Of Pi nearly nine years ago and have been waiting dying to watch a cinematic version since. The fact that it was supposedly ‘unfilmable’ (I don’t think I ever agreed with that) only added to the charm, given that past cine-adaptations of unfilmable novels have included stellar films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘Lolita’ and ‘American Psycho’, amongst many others.

I watched Ang Lee’s version last Tuesday at a press screening and was stunned. To me, this is the best film version of the novel that could’ve been made. The visuals were stunning and usage of 3D, to me, the best ever – it somehow felt more necessary here than it did even in ‘Avatar’, to convey that feeling of loneliness and intimacy, not to mention the stunning CGI and creature effects. Richard Parker, the part-live-action, part-CGI tiger, is a creation of genius, and goes right up there with Gollum in the category of Non-Human Characters That Deserve All Kinds Of Accolades. The sequence where a helpless Pi spreads his arms heavenward in the face of a raging storm, screaming, “I give myself to you, God!” stands out as one of the most powerful sequences in recent memory. And, of course, that little sequence depicting Pi’s hallucinations when he’s almost lost hope is surely our generation’s version of the Jupiter and Beyond sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. If there were an award for The Trippiest Shit Ever Put On Film, this sequence would surely be a strong contender.

I’m not saying I loved everything about the film. David Magee’s screenplay was slightly patchy and hurriedly put together – I agree with CilemaSnob only on that count, that one doesn’t entirely get the sense of Pi having spent 227 days out at sea. Also, that short minute-and-a-half appearance of Pi’s uncle, who named him, has got to be the worst Peter Sellers impression of all time.

That said, a lot of people have been criticising the accents in the film, particularly how Irrfan, the older Pi, and Sharma, the younger one, don’t sound like they speak the same way. How people have come to this conclusion (without being armed with a degree in linguistics, might I add) is beyond me. The older Pi has stayed in Canada for 20 years, but clearly within an Indian community. If we must nitpick about accents, why should we assume that Irrfan’s mostly-Indian-with-a-few-random-Canadian-inflections accent is inauthentic? After all, accents have no set patterns – I have a friend who went to the States for a year and came back with a strong accent and an uncle who has lived in the UK for 40 years and sounds like a Kolkata Bengali trying to put on a slight British accent. Isn’t this just our inherent bias of trying to look for flaws because we’re so sensitive about how Indians are being portrayed by Hollywood, as though Hollywood is aces at portraying everyone else accurately? One justification for this argument goes: “How come our actors can’t pull off accents as well as theirs can?” The answer, of course, is “That statement is bollocks, unless one’s name is Christian Bale,” as this article and this article will show you.

As for the central complaint, about why a story that claims to make one believe in God doesn’t leave you feeling any different, all I can say is, somewhere Yann Martel and Ang Lee are snickering to themselves over a drink and saying, “Gotcha!” Were you really expecting your carefully-constructed belief system, built up over at least a couple of decades, to be shaken by a two-and-a-half hour film? Life Of Pi is not a story about God or religion – it is a well-disguised critique, or should I say an analysis, of how faith affects us. The concept of the myth, religion’s greatest tool, forms the basis for the central act of Life Of Pi. The alternate storyline, revealed at the end, is probably the true version of events, but does that matter? Ultimately, the story is all about faith: Pi’s faith in his many Gods, his faith in his ability to survive, his faith in the story he tells and our faith in his journey.

Irrfan’s Pi asks the writer, “Which of the two is a better story?” Martel and Lee seem to be asking us a similar question: “Between religion and its sometimes-incredible myths, and atheism and its rationalised outlook, which do you prefer?” Whichever side of the fence you’re on, the answer is immaterial; what they’re really asking us is, “Do you like good stories or do you like great stories?”

With my family’s growing concern over my bad health in the last few months, they consulted an astrologer without informing me anything. And when i was finally forced to meet the Astrologer, he carefully studied all the possible lines and marks of my both hands, and among many others things, he warned me against stomach ailments and problems in lower regions of the body. Not sure if he had already figured about my stomach ailment from any of my family members as am having one since last few months. Anyway, it’s an easy guess with bongs.  But he was right about it. About the lower region, well, he just proved himself right again in the last three days as i went through severe waist pain because of a muscle pull, and somehow survived the worst day of my life. Because after injections and medicines, when getting up from bed, sitting on chair and walking feels like greatest achievements of the day, you know it cant get worse than that.

Even as i am joking now that hopefully his prediction doesn’t get any further “lower” as far as my body is concerned, am seriously confused whether to believe him or not. Pain, suffering, loss, danger – they always make us question faith, and sometimes, when there’s no solution in sight, you want to believe anything, at least for the moment, as long as it’s going to make your life easy.

Now, imagine this – you are stuck on a boat with a Royal Bengal Tiger in the middle of an ocean. As scary as that sounds, it’s equally exciting and fascinating if someone starts telling the story by assuring you in the beginning that the person on the boat survives. Or better – the person who survives, he is telling the story. That’s the basic premise of Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, based on a novel of the same name by Yann Martel. The question now is HOW?

Ang Lee excels in translating this “how” into a gorgeous journey. Like me, if you are a fan of Ang Lee and have seen all his films, you must be following every detail about Life Of Pi. In almost every interview he has confessed that how he was completely enamoured by India’s religious and spiritual collage. And that’s what he tried in the film too – a spiritual journey packed into an adventurous ride. For me, this is where the film fails to connect. It doesn’t go beyond the surface, beyond what you see on screen, beyond the adventure and the exquisite frames. Everything looks fine and so i wasn’t sure what exactly was missing. Something which Terrence Malick translates on screen with those lens flares, hushed voice overs, flickering sunlight and flowing curtains. He holds your hand and makes you part of that “meditative” journey – a rare cinematic space. I was all ready to make that connect with Life Of Pi but it never happened. And when the core of the film doesn’t connect, you start looking at other minor issues – weird accents, stilted dialogues, shifting voice overs. Though i have made peace with the fact that desis speaking English on screen will never look good. But, as was the case with Slumdog Millionaire, when the film speaks to you, it’s easy to overlook other things even when it’s a bollywood masala packed well by a Brit filmmaker.

And am not talking about faith in terms of God or any specific religion here. Though the film prepares the ground for it in the first 20minutes, and in the end too. It’s more in terms of nothingness or illusion as he describes in this interview. For me, another interesting aspect that always gets my attention are the books the characters read in films. I always make sure to notice the titles. You see Pi reading Camus and Dostoevsky at such an early age but somehow the dots between life, death and philosophy doesn’t connect. It feels quite vacuous in that sense. As Andre O’Hehir compares it to Cloud Atlas and calls them “spiritual pretensions” in this review.

The other big question of the film is which story do you believe? I read the book long back. I started reading it again but could hardly read some 40 pages and then saw the film. I might be wrong here but i think the film completely undermines the second story starting from the opening credit roll which is completely in synch with the core of the film – the balance in nature – between prey and predator. I haven’t seen a better opening credit roll this year (Skyfall should be close second) – it’s so simple and so deadly gorgeous that i could kiss it. The second story would make it dark and with so much money at stake, i doubt any studio would like to explore that. So there’s just one scene in the film that connects to that second story. Does the book have more? If you remember, do comment.

Another question that came to my mind after watching the film was how many days he spends with the Tiger? It seems like few weeks. But the correct answer is 227 days! So why doesn’t it feel 227? or did you? Too much of adventure packed in because they need to sell the tickets, and too less of “nothingness”. Make everything look gorgeous, keep them hooked to the seats, let the spectacle sell. Where was the frustration of spending so many days on a boat in the middle of an ocean with a Tiger for company? And it forced me to compare the film with Cast Away. The more i think about both the films, the more i feel i can spend more time with Tom Hanks. Though Hanks’ journey was  quite boring compared to Pi’s. But even without stating and underlining every thought with voice-over, Hanks’ story is more meditative, more at peace, more frustrating. Pi is just too much beauty to handle. But do go and watch Life Of Pi because Parker alone is worth the ticket price, and it makes you believe in the magic of cinema and its immense possibilities.

– Posted by @CilemSnob

It’s been raining trailers and how! We are adding two new interesting trailers to the list. First one is Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi. Based on the book of the same name by Yann Martel. It has Irrfan Khan (Older Pi), Tabu (Pi’s mother), debutant Suraj Sharma (Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel) and Adil Hussain (Pi’s father) in lead roles. Here’s the trailer which released today.

What’s wrong with the first 1min? Looks fake and poorly done. Rest of it looks magical. And Royal Bengal Tiger Mister Parker looks scary and delicious. There was a great buzz for its 3D at Cinema Con. We are waiting and how. In Ang Lee, we trust.

Click here to read the unofficial synopsis if you haven’t read the book.

The makers of Prague have just released the first teaser of the film. It really doesn’t say anything about the film but gives you its mood – Trippy is the keyword here. Click on the play button and enjoy.

Directed by debutant Ashish R Shukla, it stars Chandan Roy Sanyal, Arfi Lamba, Mayank Kumar, Sonia Bindra, Elena Kazan, Lucien Zell & Vaibhav Suman.

To know more about the film, click here.


Thanks to the good soul who mailed us the (un)official synopsis of Life Of Pi. The film is directed by Ang Lee and is based on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name. It has Irrfan Khan (Older Pi), Tabu (Pi’s mother), debutant Suraj Sharma (Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel) and Adil Hussain (Pi’s father) in lead roles. It’s scheduled to release in 2012 and will be in 3D.

And here is the synopis…

PISCINE “PI” PATEL (54) was born in India but now lives in Montreal. Though he loves Canada, he misses the heat of his native country. He is still a bit traumatized by the memory of being abandoned by RICHARD PARKER when he was 12.

Pi’s father studied zoology in Paris which is where he met Pi’s mother. An avid swimmer, Pi’s father taught Pi how to swim when he was seven. His father worked as the director of the Pondicherry Zoo in Madras. Pi grew up around the animals, learning to love each of theirs unique and sometimes amusing idiosyncrasies.

In school, Pi earned the unfortunate nickname of “pissing Patel”. When he entered middle school, he took the moniker Pi and was thankfully never teased again.

In 1964, over the objections of his mother, Pi’s father took Pi and his cousin RAVI to the tiger cage to watch it kill a goat. It was a lesson to teach them to fear the big cats. They may look fluffy and cuddly but they are ferocious animals.

Pi became interested in Catholicism. He would visit the local church and talk to the PRIEST about his religion. Pi was raised as a Hindu and would go to temple to question the PANDIT about his philosophy. Pi also would go to the mosque to ask the IMAM about his religion. Pi was fascinated by all three religions and considered himself a member of each. It never proved a problem until one day when he was walking with his parents and encountered the priest, pandit and imam. Each declared Pi a member of their congregation and got into a fight when the others made the same claim.

When the owner of the zoo, the MAHARAJAH died, his SON took control of his holdings. He decided to raze the zoo and replace it with a golf course. Pi’s father hoped he could change the Maharajah’s son’s mind by acquiring a lion for the zoo. He took Pi with him when he went to a circus to look for a lion to buy. While he negotiated a deal with the circus owner, Pi met the LION TAMER. He took the boy into the cage with him and showed him how he controlled the animals. The most important thing he taught Pi was never to show fear and to always be in command. Pi’s father was unable to make a deal with the circus owner and they left empty-handed.

With the zoo closing, Pi’s father got a job with the Canadian zoo which purchased all of the animals. They were loaded onto a boat along with Pi and his family. While on the cruise to their new home, Pi helped to feed the animals.

Pi was awakened one night to find his room flooding. The ship was sinking. The sailors freed most of the animals, giving them a chance on the open sea rather than drown on the boat. Unable to find his parents, Pi was taken topside by a sailor who threw him into the ocean. Pi swam to the nearest lifeboat, climbed aboard and watched the ship go down. That’s when he noticed that he wasn’t alone on the lifeboat. He shared it with a zebra, peacock and a hyena. Pi never saw his parents again.

Pi saw a tiger named Richard Parker clinging to a piece of driftwood nearby. It got that name from the Brit who found the orphaned cub that was then given to the zoo.

Pi is telling the story from his hospital bed to MR. OKAMATO and MR. CHIBA, investigators from the insurance company who were questioning him about why the boat sunk. Besides the two Japanese, there were a few nurses and orderlies also listening to Pi’s fascinating tale.

Pi then saw a hand grab the edge of the lifeboat. It belonged to a female orangutan who pulled herself into the boat. After a couple of days and getting hungry, the hyena moved to attack the zebra. Pi tried to fend it off with an oar but couldn’t stop the starving animal. It attacked the zebra who panicked and fell out of the boat. Thwarted, the hyena then turned and attacked the orangutan, killing it. That’s when the tiger reappeared, jumped into the boat and killed the hyena. Pi escaped the boat after making a raft from oars and life preservers. He stayed near the boat because it contained supplies that he might need.

As Pi continued his tale, his hospital room began to be filled with more patients and staff who were hanging on every word he said.

As the days continued, Pi remembered the things he learned from the lion tamer. Using a fishing hook he found in the survival kit on the lifeboat, Pi began catching fish to feed himself and the tiger. He would clean the fish by using one of the tiger’s discarded claws. In time, they formed an unlikely truce. The tiger wouldn’t eat Pi as long as he continued to feed him. When Pi got the chance, he would also feed on sea turtles and sea birds that he would encounter. Pi would keep track of the days by making notches on an oar. He would eventually make a total of 137 notches.

Pi woke up one morning to find that his boat had reached an island. The tiger jumped out and ran into the jungle. Pi began to investigate himself before passing out from exhaustion. He woke up to find his hands and feet bound. The sailor from the ship was also on the island. The sailor was apologizing for his what he was about to do – eat Pi. Before he got the chance though, he was attacked and killed by the tiger. Pi jumped back in his boat and began to paddle away but then felt guilty about leaving the tiger, so he used a whistle he had found to call the big beast. It came running (carrying the sailor’s arm in his mouth) and jumped back in the boat.

Some time later, the boat washed up on the beaches of Mexico. The tiger leaped to the shore and disappeared into the woods. Pi was extremely saddened by the loss of his only friend. Pi was found by some locals and taken to the nearest hospital.

By now Pi’s audience had filled his room and spilled out into the hallway. When he finished his story, many of the listeners dabbed at the tears in their eyes. Some openly wept.


Mr. Okamato and Mr. Chiba expressed their doubts about the veracity of the story, finding it to be just too implausible. When they saw Pi’s eyes look downward, they thought they hit a nerve so they ushered everyone out of the room. Pi then told a simpler tale. He said when he reached the lifeboat, it held his mother and two sailors, one with a broken leg. After a few days out on sea, one of the sailors wanted to kill the injured one to eat. Rather than face that fate, he jumped into the ocean taking his chances with the sharks. The sailor then turned and killed Pi’s mother, stripping her flesh to hang and dry. When the sailor fell asleep, Pi killed him and later ate him. Mr. Okamato and Mr. Chiba are distressed by the story, feeling sorry for Pi having to witness his mother being killed and cannibalized. As they left the boy alone, they remarked how similar his two tales were, marveling how the young man’s imagination had replaced humans with animals. They figured the hyena was one sailor, the zebra was the injured sailor and the orangutan was Pi’s mother. Who then was the tiger? Well, Pi of course.


Years later, Pi is living in Montreal. He returns to his apartment. Pi still has the tiger’s claw.

After Slumdog Millionaire, actor Irfan Khan has bagged one more international biggie. Though he is yet to sign the film but its more or less confirmed. Irrfan will soon be seen in Ang Lee’s next, an adaptation of Yann Martel’s popular fantasy adventure novel Life of Pi.

We hope its not going to be one more case of blink & miss role, like Anupam Kher in Ang Lee’s earlier film Lust, Caution. Even Irfan did something similar in The Darjeeling Limited. May be the money was too good to resist. BTW there is no official confirmation from Irfan yet on what role he is going to play in the film.

But we are more excited to see Irfan Khan with Natalie Portman in Mira Nair’s short Kosher Vegetarian which is part of New York, I Love You. Its a love story between a Gujrati man and a jewish girl and how they adjust with each other. Here are some pics from the location of the same.