Ship Of Theseus – an indie marvel, a milestone for Indian Cinema

What is it that ‘changes’ a person? An incident or circumstances? An epiphany? Or gradual effect of everything around you? Or the unavoidable ‘change’? Does it come from within? Or does the ‘outsiders’ play an important part in it?

Ship Of Theseus stimulated these questions in my mind. But, it did not endorse any of the answer. It was plain simple storytelling. Its best part is got to be its neutral view. How many times does it happen, that you change your lifelong goals, your ‘true calling’, your principles, and you decide to start your life anew? While, I wished SoT didn’t have that climax for ‘completing the story’, it also gave me an insight in the nature of a human being. One cannot part from his/her roots. Anand Gandhi used to be a writer for Indian daily soaps and that is evident in his direction & writing. I think, that could explain, why not once, has he tried to exploit Maitreya’s wounds, which could be somewhat inevitable for modern filmmakers to show off realism.

SoT has a lot of philosophical commentary, especially in its first two segments. That, is also the reason why I liked the last segment, if not just its ‘not-so-intentional’ flow of story.

In first segment, there is a debate over “what is art?”. Protagonist Aaliya is an ambitious photographer, who is blind. She wants to have full authority over her work. She wouldn’t settle for ‘accidental art’. And once she gets cornea transplant and can see everything, she feels handicapped afterwards. The very irony of life. In comparison to other segments, this segment looks a bit amateurish and a typical build up of a short film by a talented ‘new’ filmmaker. And the film does get better from there.

The second segment wanders around “what is soul?” and various theories of existence, equality and mortality. A person like Maitreya, who could always have an answer to the debating points put by Charvaka, at the end realizes the contradictions in his own beliefs. Alas, nobody is perfect. Particularly, this segment is a great attempt at putting out profound thoughts with epic treatment. It not only has vocal philosophical debate but also magnificent frames and breath-taking visuals.

Third segment, is as reasonably real as life could get, without complex reasoning. You have had an incident. There is another incident, you come to know, that may have a connection with your incident. And you try to find the remaining parts of the puzzle. At that time, it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, for we all possess a few similar characteristic feelings. This has got to be the most lovable segment, with its characters and story easier to relate. The simple symbolism of,” ‘शंकर कहां रहता है?’ ‘ऊपर।’ ” (“where does Shankar – name of an Indian God – live?” “Above.”) defines its light nature of substance and humor.

In all three segments, the protagonist’s beliefs/principles are questioned and shattered to the core. First two protagonists turn out to be a bit extremists, giving up their beliefs. Is that the immaturity of characters or the writers, I would rather not try to analyze. By far, my most favorite lines in the movie have been,”इतना ही होता है।” (It is as good as it gets.) told by an elderly figure to the protagonist in the third segment. Couldn’t agree more. After all, there is an effect of everything on us, and we too exhibit effect on everything around us. And to think of something without considering that is utterly foolish. Very well stated in SoT itself.

I was particularly blown off by cinematography, it not only gave beauty and meaning to most of the scenes, but also made me try to analyze why it was being a little pale. Was it intentional? Or was it because of the production value? I couldn’t make out the reason. Nonetheless, like M K Raghavendra says, cinematography is an unsung hero in SoT, at times.

There is very minimalist background score, mostly to accompany the magnificent visuals which don’t have dialogues. Not that the absence spoils anything, but certainly this one medium is a bit overlooked, I felt. And this could as well explain, why cinematography feels like the instant backup savior.

Performances feel very naturalistic and admirable. Director very well uses its actors in theatrical manner, by using devices like long shots and character-centric frames. Casting too seems to have played a major role in its success. All the characters are well embodied by actors, and with the little help of cinematography, they attract us into their lives, we become a part of their world.

Above everything else, SoT is a triumphant indie film which stimulates, entertains, takes your breath away, and restores your faith over Quality Indian Cinema. Its indeed a piece of art, we should cherish and spread its joy as much as possible. Only its profound philosophical content narrows it down to urban audiences. But, here is a film which successfully breaks the barrier of choice, which is prominently there, among urban audiences. I watched it twice, sponsored to a few, urged to many, and still trying to spread the word, for its not everyday that you come across a film which everyone can like and relate to.

At the end, my sympathy for those who chose SoT over ‘White House Down’, believing SoT might be a Hollywood action flick. Two minutes silence.

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