( A post by Surendranath C, a good friend of CRI )

The movie ‘Life of Pi’ seemed like a charming magical realist tale, until this tweet alerted me to the proselytising undercurrent in it. Three of the songs in the soundtrack are – Christ in the Mountains, Thank you Vishnu for introducing me to Christ and Skinny Vegetarian Boy ref. soundtrack

I thought about it to analyze the movie and found several elements that converted the book, a straightforward exploration of human nature in a magical realist setting, into a Christian allegory.

Let us begin at the beginning.

– The story begins in the French quarter of Pondicherry, an oasis of Western Christian light, starkly contrasted against the darkness of heathen India.

– It is also noteworthy that Hindu epics are introduced through the medium of Amar Chitra Katha illustrations told as a bedtime story, to make it all seem like a charming tale for children.

– The family itself is shown as having taken the first step out of Hindu superstition through an inter-caste marriage

– The Mahavishnu float has a carnival quality, which is broken by the rationalist father, who also introduces Pi to the reality of the world and nature, red in tooth and claw.

– Pi now has his childish Hindu belief rudely interrupted and the stage is set for his introduction to Christ, the redeemer, atop a magical mountain of light.

– After his formal induction into the Christian faith, when he now removed from the home of his childhood.

– He now has to navigate the ocean of doubt and superstition.

– He is ship wrecked, wrestles and masters the beast within, symbolized by the tiger.

– At this point, he finally is forced to drop his childish belief in the sacredness of all life, and there is some not-so-subtle ridicule of the Hindu custom of worshipping animals, when he sobs and apologizes to the fish he is forced to slaughter for food

– The carnivorous island, which gives food and shelter to all creatures, only to snuff their lives out at night, is again clearly in the shape of a sleeping Mahavishnu, thereby symbolically proclaiming the cruel and futile nature of the Hindu faith.

– At the end of his journey upon the ocean of doubt, he is led to the Promised Land, again presumably a Christian island of hope and light, when he is finally freed of his animal nature and moves to a state of grace.

The message is subtle but clear. The hope for Indians is to jettison their Hindu faith and ignorant customs in favour of Christ, which you arrive at by means of rationalism. I am very impressed by the use of Indian motifs, Indian music, Indian locales and actors to further a missionary message. Clearly the Joshua project is finding new ways of passing on The Good News.