<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Anand Gandhi. Starring Aida El-Kashef, Sohum Shah, Neeraj Kabi, Vinay Shukla, Sameer Khurana, Vipul Binjola, Faraz Khan
Rave reviews and twitter-fare abounded about this film and two weeks after its release I decided to go watch it. I realised that nowadays any film that is different from what we’ve been used to in ‘Bollywood’ ultimately gets those coveted 5 stars.
Not to say that Ship of Theseus (the name has something to do with Greek mythology but I won’t get into all that) doesn’t deserve some acclaim. The three stories that ultimately culminate in one slightly anti-climactic but tender finale are all wonderfully shot, have immense depth of emotion, a little bit of comic relief and some wonderful performances. Do note that it’s in a mix of English and Hindi with subtitling.
There’s the story about a blind girl called Aaliya (Aida El-Kashef) who is a relatively successful photographer up until she gets a cornea transplant and can see again.
Then you have the Jain monk Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) who believes in the sanctity of all life and is waging a court case against animal testing while simultaneously battling a life-threatening illness with a cure that conflicts with his own steadfast beliefs.
And lastly there’s the tale of a kidney transplant recipient called Navin (Sohum Shah) who must help out a labourer whose kidney was stolen during an appendix operation. By this story you’ve realised the link is organ transplants and donations. It’s not something that is hammered home but subtly woven into the plots of each tale.
Director Anand Gandhi has been criticised a tad after the overwhelming reception he got for the film. Someone found that his first tale, of the blind girl, was suspiciously similar to a short student film called Bereft of Colours (watch that here) in which a blind painter gets to see again and then loses her talent. A scene from this film is undeniably similar to the one in Ship of Theseus. Except that Ship of Theseus does it so much better.
And you know, I say that if you’re going to plagiarise and you do it better than the original then more power to you. In our country, where after spending millions on a Hindi film that has copied some Hollywood blockbuster we still manage to make a mess of the movie, we should be grateful for films where a little ‘inspiration’ is taken a long way.
Yes, Ship of Theseus is artsy. But the fixed camera moments on a bunch of green foliage swaying in the wind to some artsy music aren’t that long. The stories all hold up. Neeraj Kabi as the Jain monk is wonderful and his story seems to be the sturdiest of the three.
Two weeks on (I caught it late) and the film is still playing in theatres and the seats were half-full. Admittedly, some of the seats had bums shifting in them at points: people getting a bit bored or restless. Some expecting it to be a ‘proper’ film and not just three short stories. Some expecting there to be a ship of some sort manned by beefy Spartans. They’ll have to wait for the new 300: Rise of an Empire movie I guess.
You can choose to see many things in Ship of Theseus: the dignity in donating organs, the cycle of life, the recyclability of life, the connection of all things (May The Force Be With You-type stuff), being compassionate towards animals, conflicts with our own personal beliefs and how extremist views – even with the right intentions – can sometimes actually be detrimental.
But at the end of the movie, you come out and all you can think of is: should I pledge my organs for donation? And then you wonder if it isn’t just a very long promo for organ donation that you just watched. I don’t know. It’s certainly a nice film, just not as great as the twitterati (includes everyone with a healthy tweet count nowadays!) would have you believe. But then they’re used to awful films and are easily ‘wowed’!