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Castaway film with big effect

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Suraj Sharma stars as Pi, alongside the Bengal tiger Richard Parker. Photograph: Bloomberg


Watching Life of Pi is like watching Titanic, Cast Away and Avatar all rolled into one: an awe-inspiring tale of human survival, with cinematography and 3D effects to match. 

But instead of a volleyball called Wilson for company, we have a living, breathing CGI tiger.

Adapted from Yann Martel’s award winning book of the same title, the story was initially thought to be unfilmable.

It tells the tale of a boy who loses his family in a shipwreck and, through his faith and his will to live, is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker for 227 days.

It’s a story of faith in the face of what seems to be certain death – either from the unpredictable sea, or the wild tiger, who, though untamable, learns to tolerate Pi’s presence on the small lifeboat.

The boy, born Hindu and practicing both Christianity and Islam simultaneously, is wrapped up in a search of god, in whatever form he decides to appear in.

“Thank you Vishnu, for introducing me to Christ,” he says.

Newcomer Suraj Sharma, 17, who plays Pi, makes a convincing debut, showing a believable physical descent from a playful, innocent teenager to a skinny, hardened survivor.

Irrfan Khan, who plays the older Pi, also gave a solid performance as a man who has come to terms with his past and shares his history with calm indifference.

What was most striking about the film, however, was not the actors – good though they are – but the 3D effect.

Every scene looked like an art work: the ocean seemed extra vast, with small and hopeless Pi and Richard Parker bobbing in the lifeboat.

The sea gives director Ang Lee a blank canvas to paint such extraordinary and vivid images of marine life that thoughts of Pi and dreams of the ocean linger long after the movie has ended.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Ip at



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