Ship Of Theseus: Can it be India's Oscar entry this year?
Anand Gandhi's style of filmmaking is truly world-class, especially in its approach.
New Delhi: The rave reviews that 'Ship Of Theseus' is getting, are not wrong or misdirected, neither they have originated from wrong interpretation of the subject. The critics are expected to be a lot who have at least basic exposure to the world cinema, but even the film doesn't contain anything that is difficult to understand, of course sans the last scene, which may hold different meanings for different people.
It's not the story but the narrative strategy which makes 'Ship Of Theseus' an important film, in fact it's one of those rare Indian films which can boast of complete originality despite being world class in the techniques used. Most of the time, we borrow, may be unknowingly, the central line of conflict along with the techniques.
Understanding the classical history of Russian cinema or East European cinema might help you in appreciating 'Ship Of Theseus'. It may look exaggerated on the outset but Anand Gandhi's style of filmmaking and Pankaj Kumar's cinematography are truly world-class, especially in their approach.
The way it presents arguments and tries to resolve to a point could look monistic but the craft used to support the narrative is essentially flawless. Out of the three stories, the most concrete in its conflict line is the one involving a monk called Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi). Apart from the names, which are judiciously used to portray the conflicting ideologies, this section of the film carves out the base of the notion which derived 'Ship Of Theseus'. Charvak and Maitreya get indulged in friendly arguments to reach to a consensus which is not necessarily going to be in accordance with the popular beliefs. How many times have we seen something similar happening in Indian cinema where even the most radical filmmakers refrain from making their audience feel intellectually inferior? Surprisingly, this has happened in a way that is very humble and not directly in your face, which doesn't entice the viewer from taking a 'pretentious' stand.
Art for the art's sake
The debate about individuality and art's motives in the blind photographer's story is a rarity. From Luis Bunuel to Bergman to Tarkovsky, acclaimed directors have mostly opted for an 'outspoken' treatment which supplements the story. Gandhi has done exactly the same that too at a good pace and perfect tempo. The paradox of 'Ship Of Theseus' is a vast topic in itself and it required a really intelligent narrative to envelope the basic idea in a limited period but the film does it with ease.
Our originality has always been questioned, especially in recent years, and our brand of filmmaking has already been stereotyped by the West. Until and unless, Indian films shake their beliefs and display the will to come out of the comfort zone they are not going to take us seriously. To do so, we desperately need a film which can beat them in their own game that is giving an intellectually mesmerising dimension to the narrative.
Why winning an Oscar is important? For a very simple reason, we need more open markets now. Most of the foreign markets treat the Hindi film industry as wholesome family entertainment providers and that stops many of them from embracing our films completely. The cultural history of Europe was made in a different way and they like films which can stir the brainwaves. They are also influenced by Hollywood but some of their off-stream filmmakers have made sure that the audience remain in touch with social realism. Films such as 'Gangs Of Wasseypur' and 'Paan Singh Tomar' have started fetching their attention, and now it's the time to take it to the next level. 'Ship Of Theseus' have global characters and the paradox was also originated in the West, thus there are chances that its acceptability will be better than other Indian films.
What is cinematic?
There are two types of filmmaking - first that picks up cinematic themes and weave them into a film, and the other which makes a story cinematic. Clearly, the first kind is driven by market forces, which is not wrong but those filmmakers will always have to work within limits and they can't become experimental after a certain extent. 'Ship Of Theseus' belongs to the second category and it forces you to talk about the subject. You can take a stand for or against the film but you can only talk about the arguments it initiates. The perfection of techniques is so much that the film appears like a documentary.
Time and space
The world is going through a transition phase and market forces are battling against different rights groups. Amidst all this chaos, here is a film which talks about ethics and wider perspectives of human life. It also understands the changing nature of India entrepreneurs (Navin's story) and places a growing Indian businessman at the right spot. He is neither a jingoistic nor over-the-top nationalist but his motives are the result of India's history. He is an individual who believes that a bit of compassion is alright to live with. It seems we have grown up.
'Ship Of Theseus' fulfils every requirement of a movie-goer (Though ticket prices need to be revised to enhance its reach) and it has the potential to represent Indian filmmaking in an entirely new light. Winning an Oscar would be icing on the cake. It would be like receiving the global acceptance, may be in a limited way but still...