Ship of Theseus

[Cast: Aida Elkashef, Sohum Shah, Neeraj Kabi, Shukla Vinay, Sameer Khurana; Music: Naren Chandavarkar, Benedict Taylor; Director: Anand Gandhi]


At one look Ship of Theseus might appear quite pretentious. The under-whelming DVD cover, which is intentionally designed to discourage you from picking it up from the shelves. The cryptic title of the film which requires a visit to Wikipedia and the slow and painfully abstract first few minutes that expects you to eject the DVD and play ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’ in every way, director Anand Gandhi quietly whispers ‘I’m sure you may not like this film,’ or ‘I’m sure this is not up your alley.’

I understand that this constant discouragement was intentional, because the film requires you to spend nearly two and half hours of good patient time. You need to soak in the visuals, appreciate the cryptic, yet profound lines, and continually relate the title to the theme of the film. When you actually do that, that is give into the demands of the director, you’ll be in for a treat. Ship of Theseus is one of the best films to have come out of India in the recent past. It’s beautiful, surprising, creative, deep and yet even funny at times.

Ship of Theseus is not a single, whole movie. It’s actually three movies, but it’s impressive how they are made to ‘appear’ like a single movie. Anand Gandhi skilfully blends in three stories and actually considers them as just one. It is evident the way he stars each story, without any apparent conclusion to the previous ones. Only after a couple of minutes do you realise that the previous story is over and the next one starts. But quite quickly you get accustomed to the next one. It appears that Anand Gandhi is more adept at short films than feature films. We need to wait for his next venture to change our opinion on that.

Ship of Theseus is a triumph in the every way of filmmaking. It is not your everyday Indian film. It is not even the templatised Hollywood fair. It is a Newer Wave. It blends in the parallel cinema of Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal, blends in French New Wave to it and throws in contemporary technology and filmic sensibilities. The result is a soul-stirring and fulfilling movie experience.

When it came out the film was well talked about and even managed to receive nationwide theatrical release. That in itself another triumph, and might not have been possible if not for Kiran Rao’s involvement. And God bless her for that.