Master filmmaker Ang lee on spirituality, cinema and his latest wonder 'Life Of Pi'
At what stage of the reading 'Yann Martel' book did you realise that you want to make movie on it?
I read the book long back 4-5 years back. Fox approached me to do the film. That time I got hulk.
How did it happened?
I know it was big so first I came here followed the Yann Martel root, did lot of research with my team of experts and screenplay writer. started thinking about the structure of the script, locations - the Indian part not the ocean part. in the mean time I wrote the script. About a year and then did the visualisation and computer animation so actually I visualise the ocean thing before I asked for the proper budget. The virtue set on the computer was very helpful. It gave the prospective to the whole thing around. The movie board, the cartoon was made first. It was 1 and half year process before I got the green light. Then I have to build a studio in Taiwan for water work and everything. It took 5-6 month for shooting. I shot in India at Pondicherry and Munar. For the ocean part we shoot in Taiwan.
How different or similar it is from the book?
it is the same material but different media. I try to be loyal. It is an inspiring book. It's very inspiring material, it's something new. I hope it bring out in the audience as it bring out me. I think I have different thoughts about the tiger.
You took 8 month to say yes to the project. Was there any time you felt this project will not happen?
A couple of times but not from my side from the studio. It's crazy but I did my chore. Step by step I started doing my casting and showed see its PI. Thank god the formula movie flopped that weekend. They where not starting and it was killing me. Once I am approached I am possessed.
How did you made your mind on this after it got rejected by 3 filmmakers?
They backed out for different reasons. Every movie has its own faith like how it proceeds to meet the audience somehow 'Life Of PI' choose me. I belong to the movie and the movie is mine. There is no use to thinking about the previous history and how we are going in future. You need to be modest.
It is said that you have taken 3D to another level with this film?
It started off as a naïve and silly idea. Everything was impossible - the water, the tiger everything and also very expensive. It was a tropical book. However everything which was seemed impossible happened. I feel 3D should be a new media it looks like an illustration, art intelligence or scripture I don't know it is a new illusion I was hungry about. I detest and realise the wonder with water. I really feel like Pi watching ocean in the computer.
How much emotions are incorporated as this film is more on technical finesse?
Technique is used to enhance emotion. I think everybody going to watch the emotional PI.
What kind of response you are expecting from Indian audience as Life of PI is going to be a big release in India?
I have an anxiety. I hope culturally if you see the first part where I work with Indian cast and crew I have tried to get as realistic as possible. Everybody called the story of PI as bullshit but still it's so fantastic.. that is the charm of the book and the movie. I want the audience to take it as the world. It's a geographical adventure movie with an illusion. The movie is a dilution which examines illusion which is the most interesting part. I hope Indian audience doesn't find it unauthentic and take the movie like everyone else in the world. The Indian audience gets the thrill of watching the movie. It's a very specific part of India Pondicherry. I don't know I have a lot of anxiety.
Lots of money has being put in this movie, how you look at Indian market?
I hope it goes big...i hope it is successful. The movie is inspiring. India is very spiritual place we all know that why the story is set up here. I want to see how everyone reacts to the subject not only the critics but intellectuals and general audience as well.
The author Yann Martel reaction?
I don't know he seems to be excited.
You deliberately worked with new talents in this huge project? Why?
It's about Pi. He is innocent, hard. We have to choose someone who was nearer to that character and I guess Suraj won. Irffan Khan is a great artist.
Do you think that emotion quotient is increased in Hollywood due to eastern stories in Hollywood?
Yes, I think they are pretty dry. I think in movie business they look something fresh and specific and universal. It already is happening in mainstream Hong Kong movies then Indian movies. If you want to go to Hollywood mainstream film making you have to go beyond specific and be universal.
How many Indian movies have you seen?
Not much. I still remember 15 years ago I saw Sholay
At this stage of your career what is the most important thing for you?
I hope the movie works. I will go around the world to release the movie. I think the most important thing is the power of the story than the power of storytelling. Somehow the story came to Yenn Martel than its pass down to me. For me the most important thing is how audience take the movie in their head.