Of course it couldn’t last. Just when I’d got used to the hours and work, aided greatly by the realisation that I finally had a boss who actually both likes and respects me, it’s all going to hell. First of all, the office makes me sick. Literally, not figuratively. I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that the entire floor is kept at a temperature that makes me wonder whether the company’s real business is cryogenics. A vent blasts freezing air directly at the top of my head. I’m usually decent with what passes for cold in the tropics, but I’ve clearly been overestimating my immunity. It’s taken forever for a common cold to go (14 days and counting). Despite the fact that I’ve wrapped up in a shawl like a security guard outside a girls’ hostel — for those who haven’t seen these gentlemen, they don’t wear warm clothing as much as swaddle themselves in woollies — the moment I spend more than four hours in the office, I’m down with fever. This happened last week. I stayed at home for two days and I was almost fine until I spent about 7 hours at work today. Now here I am, wrapped up in a quilt and in a room with no fan. The temperature outside is about 21C, if my iPhone is to be believed. There is absolutely no reason for my toes and fingertips to be freezing at 21C. No reason other than bleddy fever. More critically, the aforementioned boss seems to have rollercoastered out of my workplace, which means I’m probably going to have to go out looking for a job. Again. Just when I’d started relishing this business of casually striding in post-lunch. Life, I tell you. Though on the plus side, if I do have to find another job, perhaps the office’s airconditioner will be a little more…erm, tropical.
The only other reason for this fever — body aches are the absolute worst especially when accompanied by a hacking cough — could be that I’m having a bodily reaction to Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s most recent cinematic venture. The film has scored 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most critics seem to love it. Roger Ebert said it was one of the best films of the year.
Ok, maybe not rubbish. The CGI is fantastic, particularly in the bits with wildlife. Some of the cinematography (by Claudio Miranda) is breathtaking. But that’s all there is to the film. Prettiness. Spectacular prettiness, but that’s it.
A boy named Piscine Molitor Patel, a.k.a. Pi, lives in Pondicherry, in a zoo, until his father decides the family and its animals are migrating to Canada. They’re travelling by ship, with the animals, to save money. The ship is wrecked in a storm but Pi manages to get into a lifeboat and save his own life. Pi survives 227 days, floating around in the Pacific Ocean. In the first part of the film (and novel), Pi tells you about the magical adventures he has. He discovers he isn’t alone on the lifeboat. With him are a zebra, an orangutan named Orange Juice, a hyena and a tiger named Richard Parker. The hyena kills the zebra and Orange Juice very quickly and then is killed by Richard Parker. Which leaves Pi and Parker on a lifeboat. They establish an uneasy and ultimately friendly relationship while bobbing about, seeing glowing underwater creatures and encountering carnivorous islands. Ultimately, Pi lands up in Mexico. There’s a more pragmatic and less fanciful explanation for Pi’s story and it’s easily understood when you realise what these animals symbolise. Martel spends a fair amount of time establishing these connections in the novel. Lee doesn’t do that in the film and consequently, he feels the need to spell out in detail what each animal symbolises. Twice, in case you missed it the first time. If anyone should have made a film of this novel, it’s Wes Anderson, who, for all his faults, does have an instinct for balancing beauty, quirk, cruelty and empathy. Lee, on the other hand, makes India and the story seem entirely ridiculous.
Two minutes into the film, there’s a man with an Indian accent that makes Apu of The Simpsons sound like a method actor. The dialogues are ridiculously stilted (“Oh Vishnu! Thank you for giving us this fish and saving our lives!”). It’s a miracle Suraj Sharma (who plays the young Pi) and Tabu (she, for once, is not Irrfan Khan’s wife but technically his mother since Khan is the adult Pi) manage to make their lines sound vaguely normal. Absolutely no one else manages, least of all Khan. Mychael Danna’s music sounds like he’s basically used all the bits that were leftover from The Kama Sutra. Everything is spelled out — particularly the, ahem, twist — with the industriousness of the most hardworking and unimaginative student in class. In fact, Lee spends about 20-odd minutes explaining said twist and making sure it’s as straight and narrow as a fish stick. The 3D is completely unnecessary. Seriously, a tiger leaping at the camera is plenty effective whether or not it’s a 3D film. There’s absolutely no tension in the film. If I see a grown-up Pi in the first scene, I know Richard Parker didn’t eat him on the lifeboat. So why am I watching this film? To see the CGI? Someone direct Mr. Lee to the video art sections at prominent galleries. Why take from me Rs. 250 and two hours of my life? I should have walked out at intermission, but I persevered. Because every time Lee makes a film, I hold out hope that I will understand why critics love him so much. I can’t think of a single film of his that I found memorable for a good reason. They’re always flat, too neatly-worked out, too choreographed, too boring, too maudlin, too tangled in clichés, too bloody average.
So come to think of it, yeah, it’s rubbish.