New Delhi: As filmmaker Ang Lee's visual wonder 'Life of Pi' creates a new generation of fans of his cinema, it's worth remembering the original "spark of life" or the story that influenced Booker-winning Canadian author Yann Martel's book about an Indian boy adrift in the Pacific ocean on a small boat with a Royal Bengal tiger to keep him company.
It is said that Martel read a critical review of one of Brazil's most respected authors Moacyr Scliar's 'Max and the Cats' when he decided to expand on the idea and write his own version of a castaway story.
Scliar's 'Max and the Cats', about a teenage Jewish boy adrift in a boat with a jaguar after a shipwreck, is astonishingly similar to the fate of Martel's protagonist Piscine Molitor 'Pi' Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry who survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a tiger named Richard Parker.
Martel has never denied being influenced by Scliar's work and has openly credited and thanked him for "the spark of life" that the Brazilian author triggered in him. But it did not stop the controversy that brewed in 2002 about plagiarism charges and The Guardian newspaper reported that the Brazilian author even started legal proceedings against Martel for failing to consult him while "borrowing" from his original idea.
'Max and the Cats' was published in 1981 by Scliar, who is also a physician. It was first published in Portuguese then published in English in 1990. The protagonist is Max Schmidt who offends the Nazis by having an affair with a married woman. He is forced to flee the country and ends up on a ship bound for Brazil that sinks as part of an insurance scam and finds himself trapped in a dinghy with a jaguar.