A handful of movies manage to leave behind a lasting impact on the sorts of me – such who tend to involve a little too much in whatever forms of art we pursue. I would list them all but let’s talk about one of them that has etched itself as some seriously worthwhile 3 hour long brain-food.
The story of a young man who seeks enchantments in life through various ways including religion and love, and ends up becoming the same old grown-up lost within the monotony everyone deals with; is somehow my favorite because Pi is all that a perfectly sorted person can ever be. At least for me.
The awesomeness of the character begins instantly when he trails three different religious paths to find one God but gains momentum after the ‘lesson’ that his appa taught him using Richard Parker as the prop. For a boy who had begun assuming that life was all happy colours, the tiger’s ruthlessness was a letdown of sorts. The line ‘Life has lost its enchantments after appa’s lesson’ is where the movie manages to catch me – because it is sure an indication given at the beginning that Pi shall soon find that incredible enchantment he has been looking for, but it is also the representation of the not-so-commonly experienced thirst to feed the soul. No material aspect of the world can accomplish that, it takes so much more to become that person who finds life enchanting.
All through the movie, the character of Pi manages to sustain its connectivity to his roots and his basic ever-so-inquisitive self, as he tends to apologize to the fish he catches to eat, asks the mere cats to ‘excuse him’, calls a blue whale an ‘idiot’, and even asks Richard Parker ‘what he’s thinking’. The best part of all, he manages to keep writing a diary in the midst of all the havoc, where you and I would have pretty much died of heart attack if the sea or the tiger hadn’t managed to kill us.
He spends more than a year all alone, undefended against the ocean in its most natural form and manages to still have hope. Even at the end of the journey, he can hold himself up in a position to think clearly and leave the island to find a shore, and take Richard Parker along. Such strength of the mind can only surface from a deeply rooted, well fed and carefully fostered integrity from the past. It is his quest for ‘enchantments’ that led him to feed his mind with this sort of strength. The idea to not panic and wait, read a boat journal and train a wild animal, build a system for clean water and some shade would never occur to a normal person who feeds his mind with just reality shows, academics or cricket. The mere strength of the character is for me the most fascinating factor in the movie, despite its incredible making and commendable acting.
Although wait, the best part is yet to be talked about. There was a popular question that many movie buffs tried answering regarding Life of Pi – why after all did Richard Parker leave Pi so unceremoniously? After all the adventure they went through together, the tiger owed Pi a goodbye caress at the least. Why didn’t it care as much at all?
While an agreeable answer is that the tiger is an animal after all and is incapable of such emotions (recall appa’s lesson), there was another answer that caught my eye – and seems more fitting – but it turns around the entire plot of the movie. Here goes.
Remember when Pi gets to the Mexican beach and is admitted to a hospital by the fishermen who rescue him? A couple of Japanese officers from the ship company arrive to take accounts of his survival at sea. When Pi narrates the story of how he survived with Richard Parker, they shun it away saying it is impossible and Pi is simply making it up. So in order to give them a convincing account, Pi ‘makes up’ a newer version of the story where he replaces the animals involved in the original plot with people – the zebra becomes the wounded soldier, the hyena becomes the cruel chef, the monkey becomes his mother and so on – but Richard Parker does not appear in that story.
Now this fan theory states that the second story said by Pi is the actual thing – that is what really happened at sea. The tiger never existed. However, the mental strength we spoke about that includes Pi’s fears, anxieties and yet deeply rooted sense of vigor are all personified in the form of a tiger, which helps him overcome this magnanimous oracle at sea. He first fears it, then trains it and eventually befriends it – but when he gets out of danger, it simply leaves him.
Perfectly reasonable, isn’t it. There are just so many possibilities that this movie puts forth for a viewer to contemplate. You could take a religious message, a message for your romantic troubles, for your lack of enchantment in life, and treasure the movie for the opportunity it gives you to end it your way. Sure, there are ample movies of the sort that deserve to be remembered with equal vitality, but for now let’s stick to Pi for all the good reasons.
(Image from Google)