The Telegraph
Sunday , December 9 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pi brews perfect storm

What are we to make of Life of Pi, which gets its general release in the UK on December 20 following its premiere in London last week?

After watching the film, I am still trying to understand the deeper meaning of the tale for I am sure there is one hidden in the 2002 Booker Prize winning novel by the Canadian, Yann Martel.

Meanwhile, I put on 3D glasses and sat on the edge of my seat — 3D does make a difference.

Directed by Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame, the film features a terrifying storm during which the animals from an entire zoo perish in the Pacific.

“Cinematically speaking, it was the most difficult movie I ever made,” Lee said at the premiere. “Water, kid, tiger, a new language I was not familiar with — 3D — and it does have a tricky ending.”

Lee added: “The book is about the power of storytelling, faith and spirituality, how that is important in our lives. It’s incredible, incredible material. I didn’t know it was movie material but it really grabbed my heart.”

The story is of an Indian boy in Pondicherry, Piscine Molitor Patel, whose father had named him after his favourite swimming pool in Paris. Rather than be mercilessly teased as “Pissing” Patel at school, the 17-year-old shortens Piscine to “Pi”.

Money problems force Pi’s father to decide to emigrate to Canada — only he takes the animals from his zoo which he hopes to sell in the new world. The Japanese ship is lost with all on board, including Piscine’s father, mother (played by Tabu) and older brother.

Pi finds himself alone at sea with a not very friendly tiger, Richard Parker (so named because of a clerical error). A giraffe and an orang-utan, which seek refuge on the boat, are killed by a hyena which, in turn, is killed by the tiger. Those familiar with Mowgli and Sher Khan in Kipling’s Jungle Book won’t be thrown by Pi and Richard Parker reaching an accommodation of sorts as they negotiate the beauty and the terror of the seas.

Also at the premiere was Suraj Sharma, the Delhi schoolboy who was cast as Pi even though he had no previous acting experience.

“I was a normal kid,” said Suraj, who is now 19. “Everything has changed, my outlook, the way I think, everything around me, it’s all changed. I can’t explain how much. ”

I think I can — like Unmukt Chand, the U-19 cricket captain, he may not able to combine stardom with studies at St Stephen’s College.

College mafia

Talking about St Stephen’s, there is something funny about the place. India’s high commissioner in London, Jaimini Bhagwati, who remains unbeaten at tennis, was at St Stephen’s, as was Rajesh Prasad, his deputy until last week and a demon fast bowler of yesteryear. The Indian ambassador in Paris, Rakesh Sood, who came across to give Indian journalists a briefing was — ok, you’ve guessed — also at St Stephen’s.

There does seem to be a St Stephen’s mafia running the Indian foreign service. I now recall that many of my classmates at St Xavier’s School in Patna went on to St Stephen’s in Delhi.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Salman Khurshid, the external affairs minister, was at St Stephen’s, too. However, it was once said you went to St Stephen’s if you couldn’t get into Presidency College, Calcutta.

Crown sharing

The pregnant Duchess of Cambridge has been having a rough time coping with severe morning sickness — the medical term which few of us had heard of is “hyperemesis gravidarum”.

It is early days yet but it has been made clear that the first child born to Kate and William will be monarch one day irrespective of sex (or gender as it is called these days).

There is some speculation she might be carrying twins but there is no precedent in the British monarchy for job sharing — though in these days of high unemployment it may not be such a bad idea (“I’ll shake hands with crowd on the left, you take the right”).

Under new rules, the first-born would get the crown if the twins were born naturally (assuming she is carrying twins). But the Daily Mail is worried that if delivery is by Caesarean, “it would be the obstetrician who would chose which child to deliver first and thus in which order they would be in line to the throne.”

Uganda notes

David Cameron should really do something more to promote Shailesh Vara, the Tory MP for Cambridgeshire North-West.

However, Vara had a moment of glory last week when the Commons had a brief debate on the contribution of Ugandan Asians to British society.

A motion stated that the House “commemorates the 40th anniversary of the arrival in Britain of Asians expelled from Uganda, notes their contribution to Britain and welcomes their integration into the fabric of the nation... the Ugandan Asians who have settled here have in the past 40 years truly settled and they’ve truly integrated and become part of the fabric of our nation.”

Vara, who himself came from Uganda but before the refugee arrivals, recalled how in 1972, President Idi Amin launched a “brutal and swift” crackdown against 57,000 Ugandan Asians who held British passports, giving them 90 days to leave the country before being thrown into concentration camps.

Credit, he said, needed to be given to then Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath’s government, which took the “courageous decision” that both morally and legally Britain had an obligation to take in the refugees.

The refugees were met by some placard-waving demonstrators at British airports, but many other Britons, he said, assisted them, showing the “British character at its best”. “And now many of those people employ hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.”

David Cameron, Vara added, previously paid tribute to Ugandan Asians during Prime Minister’s questions, saying they had made a “fantastic contribution to our national life”.

Twitter terror

Having delivered his 2,000-page report on “the culture, practices and ethics of the press” — all journalists should, at least, flip through its main findings — Lord Justice Leveson has hightailed it to Australia where he has been making noises about the need to end “trial by Twitter”.

The problem is that the West has encouraged the freedom of the Internet to break totalitarian states and encourage, say, the “Arab Spring” or opposition to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

But what’s good can also be bad — the Internet, which often exercises power without responsibility, wrongly identified former Tory Party treasurer Lord McCalpine as a paedophile.

Tittle tattle

Poor Cheteshwar Pujara is being reminded by English cricket writers that life can be cruel. His 206 not out and 135 in the first and second Tests against England have long been forgotten. Instead, he is going down in cricketing history as the man who dropped Alastair Cook at Eden Gardens — “the 27-year-old (Cook) was given a huge stroke of luck on 17 when he was dropped by Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip off Zaheer Khan”.

Pujara has competition, though: “Captain Cook is still there after surviving the mother of all dropped catches by Ishant Sharma.”