Movie Review: Ship of Theseus – Ethereal Brilliance

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It’s been three hours since the movie got over and as I sit in my home to write this review, I am reminded of the scenes with every breath I draw. With every blink of the eye I can see the elements from the film flash before me. I feel enlightened and almost ethereal.

Ship of Theseus is a movie for which “Good” would be an understatement. It has been called a “hidden gem of the year” and “the most significant film to come out of India in a very long time.” And I am literally struggling to fetch words that can describe the sheer brilliance of this moving piece of art.

As I walked into the hall, I have to say that I was surprised to see a full house. I looked around to see who my fellow members of audience were. There were the expected literati and the intellectual crowd and then there were a much large number of younger audience members and from the looks of it, they were not just the intellect-seeking students of politics/literature/journalism etc. but many of what I may call “followers of mainstream cinema.”

ship of Theseus

Before the movie could start, a gentleman in mid 30s turned around and asked if this was an animated movie? His next question was if it is an action movie? And then he asked if it is in English?

I realized that here might be a crowd that may never understand the worth of what they were just going to see. I figured many might have thought that it is another action flick.

But 143 minutes into the movie, I was proven wrong when the entire hall rose for a standing ovation as the credits started rolling. Here was a moment that I had never experienced before. As the applause went on with people now cheering even louder, I realized that Kolkata still holds its taste for parallel cinema. But as I came home and put a tweet it was revealed that the entire country had shown its appreciation for the film…

Coming to the point, the title of the movie is a reference to the philosophical Paradox of Theseus that questions if an object has all its components completely changed, does it still remain as the same fundamental object? The plot consists of three seemingly independent stories of people who face a strong change either in physical or psychological ways and questions if they still remain what they were.

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There are stunning performances by Aida Elkashef as the visually challenged photographer who regains her sight through a transplant but is now dissatisfied with her photography; Neeraj Kabi as the monk Maitreya who is fighting against animal cruelty in drug testing but is himself suffering from liver cirrhosis and needs heavy medication and Sohum Shah as the young money obsessed stock broker who questions morality in a life changing experience when he discovers the world of organ theft and trafficking. There is equally brilliant performance by supporting cast especially by Vinay Shukla who plays a young cynical lawyer who indulges in intellectual banter with the monk Maitreya. The plots grow independently and how they end up getting intertwining forms the climax. The script is very strong and questions idealism, identity, ethics, morality and most beautifully portrays the conflicts of dichotomy.

The cinematography is a piece of art in itself. It has a rustic touch and is very raw in its feel without any use of filters or advanced instrument. Pankaj Kumar (who also co-authored the plot) shows us what is true skill in handling a camera. It is a movie shot with a real vision. Quite often there are scenes which when frozen are so perfect a shot that they can pass off as the most artsy of photographs. My personal favourite being the one when Neeraj Kabi is walking singularly in white dhoti with a black umbrella and the backdrop is the raging Arabian sea and the rocky coasts of Mumbai. It’s a visual epic.

The music is once again minimalist and heat warming. It binds the flow and uplifts the film even more. As the movie ends, I remember how I was so drawn by the closing music. I remember sitting enthralled and trying to absorb the moment. I recall turning to my friend and saying, “This is rare.”

Yes, this movie is an example of rare brilliance. The movie is also extremely heavy. The impact is so intense that even hours of dwindling through crowd and traffic cannot wash it off. It so rich and magical that a person is left too enchanted to recall the finer technicalities. And that is a sign of a great movie.

I must say that I will be definitely going for a second watch, as have many according to their tweets. It is one of those rare movies where in the more you watch it, the more you enjoy it. The first watch is definitely too heavy to feel the smaller and much finer moments which are revealed in the subsequent watches.

To end, I must say that I am so happy that Anand Gandhi decided to make this film. This movie epitomizes the fact that Bollywood has more substance in it and is not just a hub of sing-dance-masala blockbusters with over the top action and drama. The critical as well as the audience reviews have shown that such movies are well appreciated and are welcome. I pray that Indian parallel cinema grows stronger. But as of now, I am going for a second watch of what I call a pure bliss – Ship of Theseus.

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