Ship of Theseus (English, Hindi) - Review
Anand Gandhi’s debut feature Ship of Theseus is a thought-provoking, emotionally and intellectually moving cinematic experience, one that Indian cinema can be proud of. For those who believe that they have the right to firmly hold on to their brains while experiencing movie-magic, Ship of Theseus won’t let you down. It talks about universal themes like the meaning of existence, and it does so without resorting to indulgence or pseudo-intellectualism. All I can really say about it is ask of it, and you shall receive.
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There are indie films and there are indie films. And then there is writer-director Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus. Perhaps the singularly most impressive independent film to come out of India, Ship of Theseus is a sweeping philosophical, intellectual and emotional experience that demands the audiences’ involvement from the very outset and in return rewards them with questions, answers and everything in between.
The film traces three separate stories - three threads of life, ideology, spirituality and thought – into journeys that shake up the very basis of their characters’ separate existences. A female photographer whose talent and fame stem from a very unique circumstance – a physical disability that few would be able to overcome in such a positive manner; a monk whose ideological beliefs – that of non-violence and animal rights – face a stern test of faith; a young stockbroker whose notions of morality begin to spiral inwards as he unwittingly gets drawn into an illegal kidney trade racket.
Anand Gandhi makes us dwell in these characters’ minds and inhabit their worlds, makes us get to know their worldview intricately and, most importantly, he makes us a part of the journey that these characters have to undertake. And these journeys don’t have a definite end – you just live with the characters long enough to know that, for better or for worse, their experiences have changed them.
Another thing that fascinated me about the film at a far more personal level was how the entire film breathes Mumbai. The stories themselves could have been set in any city in the world – they are universal. But - and I am only speculating here - it appears that Anand Gandhi shares a bond with the city of Mumbai that reflects in how it is just always present, gently undulating under the surface of the film.
What helps the film immensely is the cast. Though they are largely unknown faces in Indian cinema, each of them is convincing. Aida El-Kashef, Neeraj Kabi and Sohum Shah play the three main characters mentioned earlier. Each of them is so convincing in their roles that it often doesn’t seem like they are playing characters at all. Their presence and spontaneity play in a large role in drawing the audience’s involvement into the film. Also a host of charming supporting characters that are wonderfully performed are like icing on the cake.
While the film can clearly hold its own at the international stage in terms of thought, what makes it even more special is that even technically, one doesn’t feel that the film can’t compete internationally. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography needs to be lauded for that. Each of the stories has its own visual language specific to the character and his or her environment, and yet they merge beautifully in the larger context of the film. Yes, I did feel that the film could easily have had a crisper cut. There is an excess of visuals that makes the film a tad too long. Personally, I would perhaps have shaved off a good 10 – 15 minutes of the film to make it tauter.
Perhaps the best thing about Ship of Theseus is that it has introduced Anand Gandhi to the world. Clearly, he is a man who thinks – a rare breed in Indian cinema. As many brain-dead people and films we come across, there are an equal number of pseudo-intellectual cinephiles with an unfounded conviction in what they believe is good cinema. It takes a passionate, philosophical thinker to understand that rules - and how to break them - are decided by human beings. Right and wrong are constructs of the human mind. Morality and justice always have two sides to it, just like the inseparable duality of life and death.
Gandhi talks about all these themes in his film, hopefully the first of many more to come. Hopefully, it will also inspire and spawn the rise of more independent, thinking filmmakers. Just for this hope that he has instilled into us, with the arrival of Ship of Theseus, we as lovers of cinema must rejoice.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
- Violence: None
- Language: Some use of colloquial expletives.
- Nudity & Sexual content: None (the one scene with male nudity that was in the film festival screening has been cut in the theatrical shows).
- Concept: Three separate stories that explore philosophical themes.
- General Look and Feel: The film feels very real and has some beautiful frames.
Ship of Theseus - Movie Details
- Official Sites: Facebook Twitter YouTube Blog IMDB
- Banner: Recyclewala Films
- Producer: Mukesh Shah
- Director: Anand Gandhi
- Lead Cast: Aida El-Kashef, Sohum Shah, Neeraj Kabi, Vinay Shukla, Sameer Khurana
- Supporting Cast: Faraz Khan, Vipul Binjola, Manoj Shah, Sunip Sen, Ramnik Parekh
- Story: Anand Gandhi, Pankaj Kumar, Khushboo Ranka
- Cinematography: Pankaj Kumar
- Editor: Sanyukta Kaza, Adesh Prasad, Satchit Puranik
- Music Director: Naren Chandavarkar, Benedict Taylor
- Costume Designer: Shriti Banerjee
- Facebook Page: Link
- Running time: 140 minutes
- Reviewer: Pradeep Menon
- Language: English, Hindi
- Country: India
- Categories: Festival Diary, MAMI 2012
- Genres: Philosophy, Relationships, Social
Ship of Theseus - Trailer
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