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Study life, study literature. Eat food. Lots of it.
Also, I use a lot of adjectives- working on that, so bear with me.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

In a Film Reel! - #ShipOfTheseus

"I want to make a film about organ transplants." - This is probably not how Anand Gandhi, the director of Ship of Theseus, began his pitch to producers. This is, however, how I will begin my post about the film.

At its simplest, the film is about three characters and their stories- a visually impaired photographer, an ailing monk and a recently recovered stock broker. How they are ailing and how they get treatment, physically and otherwise along with their struggles, forms a large part of the film. At its most complicated, the film is a subtle, yet clear discussion about identity, life, death, reason, karma, the body and the soul, belief systems and a whole gamut of issues.

I'm not a film critic, nor am I someone whom people would want to read an argument on life, death and philosophy from. What I can do, is simplify things, dumb them down for dummies like me to understand them better. So here it is, a simple list of things that Ship of Theseus is and isn't:

What the film is and What it does-

- The film is beautifully visualized. Some the scenes are almost poetic in the way that they are presented, the framing nearly perfect. However, the film isn't shot on a brilliant camera, so some of it is shaky footage, but that doesn't take away too much. The beauty of the ideas more than makes up for the slightly faulty execution.

- Without giving away too much of the essence, I can safely say that even though it sounds unfamiliar and confusing, the Theseus analogy is spot-on, and you only realize this towards the end of the film.

- It contains a lot of startling contradictions. In one particularly poignant scene, you find it hard to decide whether to relate to the stock broker's despondence over his new-found compassion or laugh at his friend who is physically stuck in a narrow alley. In another, you realize that the photographs that the protagonist took while she was blind were better than the ones she took after she regained her sight. Shock fills you at even thinking of such a thing, and yet you do. In yet another, the monk uses a power of attorney to carry a centipede to a pot after which a young lawyer talks to him of Charvaka. Soon after, the same lawyer compares the monk to a suicide bomber. Go figure.

- The film makes splendid use of sounds, textures and shadows. Yes, I said textures. Go see the scene where Aliya is looking at her braille photographs, or the one where the stock broker climbs his way to Shankar's house, and you'll know what I'm trying to say. There are entire sequences where there are no dialogues, but the lights, sounds and actions make them perfect.

- Most importantly, it genuinely makes you think. It is not pretentious, its not something that only the learned and well-read will enjoy. Pay attention to the right moments, and it will not let you escape without stirring all kinds of cogs in your head.

What the Film isn't-
- Like I said earlier, it isn't pretentious. It is heartfelt and complicated, but then so are most of us. So let that go.

- It could have been a tad bit tighter, and then it wouldn't have felt a little slow at certain moments. This also becomes a little bit of an issue when you don't realize where one story ended and the other began. At the end you do understand, that neither of the stories ended, but you have to wait for it.

- While the performances from each of the actors are commendable, the subtitles aren't the clearest that I have seen.

- This film most definitely isn't your average masala potboiler Bollywood product. Although it has a foreign locale, a repentant 'firangi', a woman in plunging necklines, a man preaching religion, an apartment in suburban Mumbai, sunset shots at the Sealink, funny-looking doctors, adorable old men and two lost songs somewhere in there, IT STILL ISN'T YOUR AVERAGE HINDI FILM. Go see it, just to learn where the difference lies.

If you are going to spend your time and money watching a film like Son of Sardar or Khiladi 786, I'd say keep going for those. You will not enjoy this kind of cinema, nor
will this kind of cinema be able to celebrate you as viewers. If you are willing to tax your brain a little, Ship of Theseus is definitely worth your while then. Feel free to tell me if you agree or not.


  1. Agree with your review. Watched the movie today. Had the same thoughts.

  2. I'm glad you agree. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and leaving a comment! :)