Anand Gandhi directs “Ship Of Theseus” based on a story he wrote which is based on a Grecian Paradox which was first explored by Plutarch as “whether a ship which was restored by replacing all and every of its wooden parts, remained the same ship.” This has been further explored by many other philosophers most notably by Thomas Hobbs as “what would happen if the original planks were gathered up after they were replaced, and used to build a second ship. Which ship, if either, is the original Ship of Theseus?”
To take such a high concept philosophical paradox and to translate that into a story about identity, belief and Organ Donation and while doing so still managing to get a rousing applause from the audience at 1 am in the night on a Wednesday is a thing that is unheard of in the world of Indian film making. But that is exactly what Anand Gandhi has achieved. Perfection.
The story follows three individuals, an Egyptian photographer who relies on the sounds to take photographs because of her vision impairment, a Jain monk who opposes clinical testing on animals and refuses medicine produced by the companies violating the animal cruelty act and a money minded share broker who is content in life with making money and being compassionate to only those nearest to him.
In each of the stories the protagonist is in need of an organ. The photographer is in need of eyes, the Monk is in need of a liver due to an ailment and the share broker is in need of a kidney. To reduce the movie to being that about organ donation would be an over simplification of the central message of the movie, it is not the organs that are the planks of the ship that is the human body but rather the ideology, the thought, the belief which form the planks of the ship that is the human soul, the consciousness, the overall being of an individual. How Gandhi draws parallels to the planks being replaced is done in the most unassuming of ways and it takes time to wholly soak it in.
While the story is brilliant it would be rendered artsy and moody in the hands of an incompetent cinematographer. Pankaj Kumar frames each shot like it is a work of art, there were audible gasps during the wide panoramic shots in the story of the Monk. Kumar transitions beautifully from close ups to wide open spaces with mountains and snow and rivers to the chaotic city life to tranquil country sides with lush greenery to narrow and claustrophobic slums to that brilliant tracking shot of the streets of Stockholm. I despise hand held camera because it is very off putting but here for the very first time the hand held camera work in certain scenes actually adds to the tension and texture of the moment in storytelling.
The background score by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor is the perfect accompaniment to the overall mood of the story it never overpowers the narrative and allows the visual artistry to achieve its crescendo by enhancing the sensory experience.
Of the actors the Photographer played by Aida El-Kashef and the Monk played by Neeraj Kabi are brilliant with Kabi undergoing a drastic physical transformation. The rest of the cast is also brilliant with a special mention to Vinay Shukla who plays the young lawyer intern and Sohum Shah who plays the final protagonist
I had read about Ship of Theseus and how the other film makers who saw the movie felt incompetent by the mastery of the Gandhi’s craft and I thought that is a little dramatic but after seeing the movie I can only say that every single one of those hyperbolic reactions to this is justified. I personally have not seen a more accomplished piece of film making.
See it because even with the movies that I loved the most I was rarely speechless but with this I was rendered utterly speechless and in awe of what Anand Gandhi had created. Watch it for the compelling story the stunning visuals and the pinnacle of film making in Indian Cinema. Anand Gandhi Take a Bow Sir!
This HAS got to be India’s selection to the Oscars for the foreign language film. It is a film that is universal in its message and a film that every Indian should be proud of and support. Please go watch this in a theatre near you and support people like Anand Gandhi to get a wider distribution