At the beginning of Life of Pi, there is a claim (by Francis aka Mamaji) that Pi Patel “has a story that will make you believe in God”. The movie tries to project it in such a way that when Pi abandons all hope and surrenders to God, God, who was watching all the while, brings him to a strange island to restore his belief and provides him strength to continue. There is no such interpretation in the book.
Surely God, who sank the ship, killed his family and allowed the ship’s crew to perish, did not save Pi alone just to prove that He exists? Or is it that, despite the sinking of the ship (an act in which He had no hand), despite Pi finding himself literally at sea, God was with him, giving him the strength to survive? Does it have something to do with Pi being a “practising Hindu, Muslim and Christian”? My takeaway from the story is Pi’s inner strength, whether God-given or not. In the face of adversity he does not wither, he blooms (well, as much blooming as a raft at sea and a famished tiger would permit). Richard Parker, his alter ego or a fierce Bengal tiger, depending on which story you want to believe, keeps him alert and alive.
But for Mamaji’s confusing statement, the story remains a wonderful watch/read. The first part in India, with little Pi naming himself, encountering God and meeting Richard Parker are all delightful. (Even more so in the book). The lifeboat, the tiger, the vegetarian boy and the raft in the middle of the ocean are spectacular in 3D.
The movie remains true to the novel for the most part. Very minimal (and essential) clipping has been done, as compared to other book adaptations. The dialogs are pretty much Yann Martel’s own words. The character of Anandi, the dancer, has been introduced in the movie. In the novel, there is a strange incident when Pi loses his eyesight and hears the voice of a man – who has curiously lost his eyesight as well. A long conversation between the temporarily blinded people ensue, at the end of which the newcomer tries to kill Pi (and devour him, no doubt) but the starving Richard Parker kills him instead. By the time Pi recovers his eyesight, the man is beyond recognition.
But what is it that’s staring me in the face and I cannot see?
It was natural that, bereft and desperate as I was, in the throes of unremitting suffering, I should turn to God.
Nothing in the story reinforced or enhanced my faith, but nothing destroyed it either. Nothing answered my questions and doubts, and nothing made me decide either way.
And so it goes with God.