Ship Of Theseus – A Review

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

Advertisements

Bhag Milkha Bhag – A Review

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directs a chiseled Farhan Akhtar in Bhag Milkha Bhag a biopic on one of India’s very few renowned athlete “The Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh. Based on a script and screenplay written by the ad-man turned writer Prasoon Joshi, Mehra tries to cover absolutely every aspect of Milkha Singh’s life ranging from his motivation to joining the armed forces to the reason why he joins the athletics to his childhood traumas.

Farhan Akhtar a normally fit actor has undergone an epic transformation in terms of embodying the physicality of a premiere athlete. Outside of the physical transformation there isn’t much to applaud Akhtar for as he is saddled with a directionless script and a sagging storyline that aimlessly wanders between flashbacks. Akhtar manages to turn on the charm in the few moments he is allowed by the scripts where he is allowed room to breathe. Sonam Kapoor who plays Akhtar’s love interest is competent in the minuscule role that barely has 3 spoken lines. Prakash Raj plays the Army captain in-charge of the unit where Milkha Singh joins and in continues the tradition of Bollywood movie using Raj for comedic purpose only. The two supporting cast members who shine are Pawan Malhotra who plays Singh’s coach and Divya Dutta who plays Singh’s sister. These two carry the heart of the movie on their shoulder and are responsible for some of the tenderest moments of the movie.

The biggest problem for me is the story, as a biopic in its earnestness it tries to cover all aspects of Milkha Singh’s life and seems like a series of made-for-tv episodes. It never pulled me in and made me concerned about the fate of Milkha Singh and that for a biopic is detrimental. The direction relies all too heavily on traditional story tropes of the underdog story and the predictability of it after a while begins to take its toll on you.

Mehra entrusts Binod Pradhan with cinematography and it is a success from a purely visual standpoint. The scenes of Milkha Singh training in Leh while of no significance to the story are shot beautifully framing the stark landscape in all its natural glory.

Music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy fails to deliver a single memorable track while still manages to be a successful background score especially with the folksy songs voiced by Daler Mehandi .

The lack of any editing and a directionless story telling cripples what could have been a fantastic portrait of a deserving national hero to one that is riddled with clichéd plot points.

Another gripe I have is with the Indian audiences, we are so easily swayed by the India-Pakistan rivalry that no matter what form of sports it be the moment India bests Pakistan all the sins are forgiven and the same is true here. In what is the seminal moment in Milkha Singh’s life is reduced to whistles and hoots as he crosses the finishing line. Or perhaps the problem lies with me and I don’t know how to enjoy a movie.

Untitled

Watch this movie if you want to spend 3 hours counting every pulsating muscle and bulging vein in Farhan Akhtar’s body , but if you want to enjoy a well-made cleverly written biopic about an Indian athlete watch Paan Singh Tomar instead.

Clearly the movie is a critics darling at this point with most giving it a 5 star rating. I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie and what you liked about the movie!

Despicable Me 2 – A Review

DownloadSteve Carell and Kristen Wigg lend their voices to the lead characters Gru and Lucy in the sequel to the 2010 Animated Fare Despicable Me. Directing duo Pierre Coffin and Cinco Paul return to tell the story of the now domesticated super villain Gru who once stole the moon.

The story sees Gru as the single father of 3 girls trying to play fairy godmother at a birthday party while trying to keep the nosy match-making neighbor at bay.  After retiring from Super Villainy Gru and his adorable yellow minions have now setup a jam and jelly factory with Dr. Nefario – voiced by Russell Brand leading the production line.

Dr Nefario tired of not doing evil quits and moves to another job and Gru is approached by AVL – Anti Villain League to identify and apprehend a master criminal who has stolen a secret formula which turns cute fluffy bunnies into giant purple monsters. Gru is assisted by the AVL’s own agent Lucy voiced by the multi-talented Kristen Wigg (SNL, Bridesmaid).

There has long been a Pixar vs. RestOfEmStudios debate that almost always results in the same outcome of the fact that Pixar movies have more heart and are in general better written , directed thought out movies than Others which rely too heavily on pop-culture gags which will lose relevance over time and not be as funny. Unless Pixar has a top-secret project coming out this year which no one knows of I think this year Pixar has been outdone whose latest Monster’s university was a bit of a bum note as compared to Despicable Me 2 which is genuinely funny and has plenty of heart to spare in the form of the 3 adorable daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes.

The story seems rushed in parts where they clearly are targeting 3 suspects and somehow they end up ignoring the third one completely by focusing on Floyd and Eduardo. The justification of why Gru wants Eduardo and his son arrested is done in the funniest way possible. Another thing which I did not get is the effect of the secret serum turns a bunny into a possibly-6ft tall monster but when applied to “others” it merely turns them purple with Diana Ross hair.

I laughed out loud several times and considering that the audiences did too at the same jokes validates the universality of the humor at play. Gru and the 3 girls are fantastic and so is Lucy, but the movie clearly belongs to the Minions and I cannot wait to watch an entire movie dedicated to the Minions which is slated to hit the screens in 2014. The last scene of the Minions singing is just priceless.

Watch this movie because everyone needs a good belly laugh every once in a while and this one does so by invoking fart gags only twice and that too quite effectively and it rather relies on cleverly written humor and one hell of a side-kick legion of the minions who are just insanely funny.