Note: Unlike my other reviews, this review is a lot more personal and emotional. By which i mean, it is a deep approach towards what this film did to me. I don’t think I will ever write like this again (Sure do hope a film makes me, but its a very small chance)
Every single thing you read or hear about this film is ruthlessly an understatement. I mean this in the literal sense of the word. The first time i came across Anand Gandhi was almost a year back when I watched a video of his panel interview at TIFF along with the likes of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Habib Faisal. Some of the points he brought across intrigued me and i learned about Ship of Theseus. As soon as i did, i stormed all over the internet to learn more and watch whatever i could. I began watching and reading Anand’s interviews more and more. Then, i watched the trailer of Ship of Theseus and was blown away by it. Interestingly, the trailer was a short one back then but the conversation between a young man (only voice in the background) and Neeraj Kabi’s character had such level of intellect and understanding of not only this and that but life on a whole that I began wondering what i could do to help this film come to India.
Not once till that day had I ever felt that way about any film. Certainly not after watching a short trailer. I tweeted about the film, Put up awareness status updates on Facebook after being requested by the SOT account to spread the word. When i came to know that Kiran Rao had agreed to release Ship of Theseus I remember i was immensely happy and excited, literally, like a child. I went around showing people the new trailer on my phone. Anurag Kashyap spoke about the film numerous times. Twice on a show with Rajeev Masand. My wait has been on ever since last year.. till last Friday. Cliche enough, it was worth it in any way i look at it.
There are too many fascinating things about this masterpiece by Anand Gandhi. It has been written, shot and edited for your life to be changed. Lets start with the ‘themes’. I haven’t watched a single film in my life from which i could derive these many themes and central ideas. The film revolves around an idea that is so basic and complex at the same time. ‘Identity’ and ‘change’ can be said to be the two pillars of this film. But if by just noticing these two pillars you think you have understood what Ship of Theseus is trying to tell you, then thats too quick a judgment, unaware of the depth of the script. A huge question thrown at you by this film is, how do we know where we end and our environment begins? The most real and basic analogy is made for you to attempt to understand what this big question actually holds. “Every single one of our actions has an effect on the environment”. Though we take things, very often other living beings excessively for granted, we do not know that each one of our actions can change so many things around us. Anand Gandhi uses a variety of tools to get this across to you, not only limited to visuals and dialogue but minute and intricate detailing. “We have ten times more bacteria in our body than human cells” is something Anand writes around and about also.
All the lead characters are deeply knowledgable, give philosophically valid, accurate and amusing suggestions to the other making the dialogue immensely interesting and thoroughly engaging, leaving you to look helplessly inferior. Around us, people are always talking about ‘equality’. Gandhi’s understanding of life is fiercely justified and is assured to leave you startled. “Equality isn’t supposed to be between all human beings but all forms of existence” is a message that comes gushing towards you in the second story. ‘Purpose’ and ‘Determination’ are two key aspects of the same. But what happens to a person, preaching about something they deeply believe in when that same belief acts against their survival? Can even the most determined survive or battle it? Or could we put it like this, practice what you preach up and until what you had preached battles your very survival?
Away from the central idea(s) (There could be more than one for this one), the dialogue raises a number of scientifically unproven yet valid questions and doubts that any of us World citizens can have. A question I had pondered upon for a long time was brought up with unbelievable ease. How do you judge the validity of someone’s consent? Who can judge it? Is authority enough to kill by consent? Authority is there today, not there tomorrow. So how can we say that killing by consent is valid? Secondly, if a person knows he or she is about to die and yet abstains from any medication, can we say that the person is committing violence upon himself/herself? How is that different from any other form of violence that results in death of the innocent? Ask yourself these questions (and many more) when you watch Ship of Theseus. I started asking myself these questions after watching the trailer. We often underestimate the weaker and the ‘insignificant’.
We very rarely think that the then ‘insignificant’ can take its toll on our lives, just in a matter of time. Again, in the backdrop of the same, how do we know when we end and when our environment begins? Are we being used or led on by some force that we are currently considering ‘insignificant’? A core idea of this film could said to be “If a person goes through a major change or just a change, or if part by part/part of a person or any form of existence is replaced, does the person remain the same?” This might as well be the most unanswerable question I have asked myself after watching a film. Also, a dialogue in the film reminds us “how do we feel that a part of an animal still exists inside us?” Thus also questioning the possibility of us humans evolving into a further ‘species’. As insane as it sounds, Ship of Theseus makes sure you ponder upon these questions. There are still various messages, questions, philosophical ideas and possibilities that this film throws at you. Sometimes they are right at you, sometimes they are deep within the dialogue or just an expression of a character. I found something else that really interested me, in the first story.
“When one becomes conscious about the massive advantage it has over another, that advantage could turn out to be a disadvantage” in the backdrop of a brilliantly put analogy, which i won’t spoil for you.
Speaking about the performances, and the film on a whole, Neeraj Kabi was outstanding. His commitment to the craft is applaudable. One of the best performances, certainly, of this year, Neeraj’s ability to portray a character like Maitreya is commendable and he pulls through a fascinating performance from start to end. Aida El-Kashef has done exceptionally well in the first story. Her dialogue delivery and character understanding is unbelievably deep and sophisticated. Sohum Shah, what can i say about him? All i can say is that India was missing out on this actor all this while. Incredible performance, Sohum has his own specific style of dialogue delivery which is remarkable in every given situation. Expressively too, Sohum plays the character ever so well. The cinematography is exceptional.
Every frame looks beautiful and soothing to the eyes. Its truly a ‘visual treat’. Director of Photography, Pankaj Kumar does a praiseworthy job.
Ship of Theseus as i said, has been written, shot and edited to change your life, open your mind to possibilities, empower your decision making for the smallest of things, rebuild your conscience and remarkably increase its ability to be affected by things you have previously avoided and make you think about not only what is portrayed in these three stories, but life on a whole. One cannot walk into Ship of Thesues without an open mind. The film is for those who give it that chance to enter you and become yours. Its not an easy thing to do in its entirety, but its a must. If you really give the film its chance, it will not just amaze you but it will make you feel inconsequential and small. The film will shake you up, it will become a part of you for the next, many days to come. Anand Gandhi as a writer and Director puts forth the most mind blowing piece of cinema in India, in the last many many years. One of the tools used by Gandhi that i just loved is the use of ‘long shots/takes’ (long i.e time). It so dramatically increases the intensity of the scene and pulls you out of the theatre and places you somewhere, looking and listening to his characters speak. Of course, a man who can write and Direct a film like “Right Here, Right Now” is a mastermind in any way. When you take shots that have such a long time span and they increase the intensity (without a cut), its amazing how Anand starts an argument between his characters (like in the first story) and ends it all in one shot. The dialogue in such a scenario is not something that is easy to write. Its difficult to start a justified argument when everything around the characters is still being observed, glanced at and thought about but Gandhi has a unique way of doing it. When it comes to originality, no Indian film in the last, many years even comes close to it. Every thing that you watch, you hear and you think about comes from one mastermind, Anand Gandhi. The sound design and the background score, both are so fascinatingly done that you could just be blown away by them.
Ship of Theseus is a rare gift to the Global Audience (not just India). I feel really inconsequential to even write about what this film can do to you. Watch Ship of Theseus and watch it many times in your life. It will affect you deeply, it will move you deeply, it will bring out a side in you that you have not known whether it even existed. This is a film that India should be extremely proud of. Once you have watched it, do vote for it, do spread the word about it and keep the film with you in your mind and your conscience.
I give Ship of Theseus 5/5.