The parameters for watching Ship Of Theseus (SOT) have been set courtesy the many interviews of Kiran Rao who's the "presenter" of this film and filmmaker Anand Gandhi who makes his debut with this one. It's openly stated that this is an art house cinema and not meant for the popcorn entertainment loving mass. However, there's ample spoken about the film over the past year and the incessant appreciation that the film has bagged at each film festival gives enough push to a cinegoer to watch this stimulating fare.
You enter the theater mentally conditioned that you are in for a sublime, thought-provoking, philosophical film that, thanks to the massive applauses, is supposed to be a gem of a film. You are expected to look at it differently, to find meanings out of the various metaphors the filmmaker presents, to apply yourself and discover the message subtly conveyed. This isn't an in-your-face film which offers the story upfront. You are expected to delve deeper to extract the meaning. And if during the meticulous process you lose the plot, it isn't the film but your fault. Phew! Quite a daunting task is what this film becomes.
The movie courteously slips in the Theseus paradox which forms its spine. When deconstructed the paradox questions whether an object which has had all its elements replaced, remains fundamentally the same object. It's followed by another question that if it isn't the same object, which of the two (before and after) is essentially the real object. The philosophy basically coincides with Human existence, given the transformation a human life goes through over the course of a lifetime do we really continue to remain the person we were born as?
This crux of the film is weaved through three different protagonists of three different stories who are interlinked by one common factor - that of organ transplant. While the first story is about a Blind Photographer Aaliya (Aida El-Kashef) who after getting her corneas transplanted to better her photography skills, instead ends up being overwhelmed by the surplus of subjects and ends up losing her focus. The second is that of a monk Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) who's campaign against the violence done on animals by pharmaceutical companies leaves his ownself in odds for he develops an ailment that can only be cured by consuming the pills made by those pharmaceutical firms that he attacked. In the third you have a stockbroker Navin (Sohum Shah) who comes across an organ-transplant racket and he tries to redeem himself of the guilt of having an illegally acquired Kidney by fighting for a poor to get his stolen kidney back.
This isn't one of those art films that make their point in a stipulated timeframe. SOT lingers on you through various extended sequences spread across 143 minutes and thanks to the exceptionally brilliant cinematography by Pankaj Kumar, you end up falling for each and every frame that captures the bustling city of Mumbai live never before.
The arguments presented by Gandhi through this film are very enlightening as well as engaging. Right from the philosophy of the blind photographer to the diatribe of the monk and his friend Charvaka (Vinay Shukla) or even the questions on morality raised by the stockbroker leave you with various thoughts to mull over.
But the drawback of SOT comes when you know that the filmmaker has only used the stories to conveniently put his points across. Except for the focus on passing the message, there's barely any effort done to establish the characters or the setting even. You would barely recall the various actors that aide his protagonists to present their arguments. Moreover, every story gets an abrupt end and before you realize, one story gives its way to another.
To sum it up, Ship Of Theseus is definitely a stimulating affair but not without its flaws.
Critic: Mansha Rastogi
(3 / 5) : Good