“Life of Pi”: How Trivandrum Zoo, Contributed Directly to the Story

Book cover from Wikipedia

A major motion picture has been released this weekend, based on the best selling and critically acclaimed novel “Life of Pi” by Shri Yann Martel (2001).  The movie is directed by the celebrated Taiwanese origin film director Shri Ang Lee.  It is a tribute to the story that a person like Shri Ang Lee has got himself associated with the movie.  As we are aware, Shri Ang Lee has many awards to his credit, including two Academy Awards for direction in Broke Back Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  One hopes to see similar acclaim for the movie and wishes Shri Lee very well!

The story has its share of wild beasts and predators. The author has not hesitated to tell us where he got inspiration and details from: a zoo in India that we all know about.  Our good old Trivandrum Zoo!!

Here is an excerpt from an old article (2002) in the british newspaper, The Guardian.  Of course, The Guardian is known for its silly put-downs of India (when compared to their own fantasy world of the “prim and proper, thereby superior british people”) in their stories and there are a few instances of it on display here.

So please ignore them and read the rest of the contents, which even for The Guardian, is quite pleasant

But the 39-year-old Canadian author was quick to point out, after scooping the £50,000 prize, that his novel was not “exotic”. His compelling descriptions of quirky animal behaviour are based on genuine research. He spent a lot of time at Trivandrum Zoo, he said.

Virtually all the animals in Martel’s gripping tale of shipwreck and survival can be found living in the zoo. (Only the doomed orang-utan is missing.) With one failed book behind him, Martel – then merely an aspiring writer – spent six months in south India in 1996. He visited Trivandrum Zoo, where he interviewed its director, observed the tigers, and ate French toast in the Indian Coffee House just across the road. The Life of Pi started to emerge in a “smashed up, kaleidoscopic” way.

It is no surprise that the zoo sparked Martel’s zany imagination: it is a place of wonder and delight. Founded by the Maharajah of Travancore in 1857, it is set in a rambling botanical garden in the centre of Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, close to the sea. The maharajah wanted to attract more people to his newly-built museum, and so he constructed a city zoo nearby, and stuffed it full of animals captured from the surrounding jungles. The jungles have now disappeared, and so has most of the wildlife. The zoo in the Life of Pi – “a hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colours” – closely resembles that of the eccentric maharajah. It is “big enough to require a train to explore it.”

Happy Viewing!!

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2 Responses to “Life of Pi”: How Trivandrum Zoo, Contributed Directly to the Story

  1. Pingback: What links Trivandrum zoo to Life of Pi

  2. Pingback: Life of Pi: The best lullaby that Trivandrum heard since Swati Tirunnal days.. | Some Updates…

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