New stills from Prashant Nair’s Umrika, which will premiere at the next Sundance Film Festival

The dramedy — starring Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Smita Tambe, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang and Prateik Babbar — centers on a young village boy who discovers that his brother, believed to be in America, has actually gone missing: he then starts to invent letters on his behalf to save their mother from heartbreak, all the while searching for him. 

Review: Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi might not be for everyone, though ironically, the film is so much about humanity that it would be a shame to avoid it. Luckily, there are some amazing visuals, so if nothing else, the masses can pop their 3D glasses on and behold the sensory extravaganza already thought to have surpassed that of 2009’s Avatar. The difference between Pi and James Cameron’s blockbuster is the story. Some might say that Pi leaves a lot to be desired in the excitement department, but contrary to what might look like a lot of dialogue and a lack of activity, there is a great deal of symbolism in this simple tale.

We are introduced to Pi Patel in his adult years (Irrfan Khan). He is a grounded man and seemingly content to live a quiet life. He has been visited by a young writer (Rafe Spall) looking to document an amazing story, a story the writer had been told would make him believe in God. Pi sits his guest down to a traditional Indian meal and begins to regale him with said story. In a nutshell, Pi had been something of a child prodigy; his claim to fame in his small town of Pondicherry, India was an uncanny ability to write the numerical value of Pi (3.14) at great length. As the son of a zookeeper (Adil Hussain), Pi had developed a love of animals and a knowledge of their mannerisms. When his father decides to move his family to Canada in search of better opportunities, Pi, now a teenager (Suraj Sharma), is crushed, mainly because it means leaving his new girlfriend behind. Nevertheless, Pi’s father immediately arranges the trip via freighter ship.

Not long after embarking with all the zoo animals in tow, a massive storm hits and throws the vessel around like a rag doll. Panic ensues and Pi scrambles to find safety, eventually landing in a small life boat with a frantic zebra and a manic orangutan. But that’s not all - a hungry hyena appears from beneath a sheet and proceeds to kill both animals, subsequently threatening Pi until a Bengal tiger erupts out of nowhere and makes the hyena his first meal on the boat. Pi is stunned and rightfully terrified. He is stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with an unruly tiger, and there is virtually no hope for salvation on the horizon.

On the surface, this story is pretty cut and dry if somewhat unconventional: man survives shipwreck and finds himself on a life boat with a tiger. What develops is a relationship based on a need for survival. The audience begins to realize that the tiger, initially the biggest threat to Pi’s well-being, is merely another victim, just as much out of its element as Pi himself. Almost immediately, the contrast between Pi and the tiger conjured memories of Tom Hanks in 2000’s Cast Away. Hanks’ character’s interaction with a volleyball, literally his only companion on a deserted island, reminded me of Pi and the tiger. Adding to this parallel is the fact that the tiger has a human name (Richard Parker), the ironic result of a clerical error many years before.

Life of Pi is told in a steady, sequential manner. We begin with sheer hopelessness and watch glimmers of optimism unfold slowly, minute by minute, as Pi makes headway with the tiger, eventually establishing ground rules for co-existence on the infinite sea. Though it is never definitively answered, Pi implores the audience to question whether or not the events before them are to be taken literally. I felt this was a clever idea; in a way, Pi appears to serve as a contemporary Aesop’s Fable, a story meant to unearth an absolute moral truth through metaphor.

This is a beautiful movie to watch. I can understand the comparisons to Avatar, mainly because there are bright, shimmering colors and landscapes that evoke a combination of amazement and melancholia. The big difference, as I see it, is that Pi looked a bit more real. Whereas Avatar was all fantasy, clearly the product of talented writers and the creative process, Pi showed how beautiful the world can be if we just stop and look once in a while.

Based on the novel by Yann Martel, Life of Pi also benefits from a protagonist who does not really subscribe to any one religion. Instead, he studies all the major religions and finds himself by combining them. This is helpful because it does not alienate anyone. Those who may be wary of having their personal beliefs challenged need not worry.

Months ago, when Pi was introduced to audiences in a special extended preview, it looked as if the film would attract the artsy crowd and eventually die off after a few meager weeks. Lately, however, there has been a lot of critical acclaim bumping it up in the public’s consciousness. I believe this will be one of the benchmark films in history. I highly recommend it.


Director: Ang Lee

Writer: David Magee

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain


After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orangutan – and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.


First look at Ang Lee's Life Of Pi

Life Of Pi, Ang Lee’s take on Yann Martel’s novel of the same name, has released a first official image featuring the titular Pi and his tiger companion, Richard Parker.

The film will tell the story of a young boy who finds himself stranded at sea for a mammoth 227 days. However, he’s not out there alone, as he has the aforementioned tiger as well as a hyena, a zebra and an orang-utan for company.

To clarify, Pi is the son of a zookeeper, and he and the animals are all castaway together when the cargo ship taking them to America is wrecked at sea. When he’s finally picked up by the Japanese authorities, they refuse to believe his outlandish tale. But what exactly is the truth behind Pi’s incredible journey?

The first image gives us some idea of the epic scope of Lee’s adaptation, with young Pi (played by newcomer Suraj Sharma) dwarfed by both the tiger in his lifeboat and the huge expanse of ocean behind him.

The film will be presented in 3D, which should make for quite the visual spectacle. Co-starring Tobey Maguire, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain and Gerard Depardieu, Life Of Pi will open in the UK on 21 December 2012.

Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival. 2012