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Is 'Ship of Theseus' 'inspired' by a student film?

In Indian cinema, original ideas are not dime a dozen anymore. To paraphrase Tyler Durden in 'Fight Club', almost everything on the big screen seems to be a derivative of a derivative of a derivative. And that’s exactly what surprises us about a celebrated effort like Anand Gandhi’s 'Ship of Theseus'.

Anand Gandhi
Anand Gandhi. Pic/Sameer Markande

Turns out a character in the independent movie, which earned rave reviews since its release two weeks ago, bears a stark resemblance to the protagonist in Bereft of Colours made by Akram Hassan. This was brought to our notice by the blog, moifightclub. The main leads of both the films are visually challenged but gifted - one in photography and the other in painting.

According to a netizen, Hassan made his film in 2006 while studying at the London Film Academy. “He is presently in Mumbai and has worked with Aamir Khan Productions too as an assistant director on Delhi Belly. It was a diploma film made with student actors and it won couple of awards as well.”

Aida El-Kashef in Ship of Theseus
Aida El-Kashef in 'Ship of Theseus'

However, Anand refutes any possibility of plagiarism and makes light of the blogger too. “Firstly, an accusation of this kind is highly disappointing, not because of its pettiness but because of its complete incapability in gathering relevant information. It's complacent, vacuous and sensationalist and a representation of the state of faux film enthusiasm masquerading as commentary in, well, Versova.”

Incidentally, the 32-year-old auteur says that world cinema already boasts of reams of film portraying physically challenged protagonists. Also, he adds he had an altogether different reference point for his ‘blind’ character. “I have spoken at length about how my DOP Pankaj (Kumar) urged me to look at the life and work of the celebrated Swedish visually-impaired photographer Evgen Bavcar with the hope of diverting my attention from the character of a blind hockey player that I was then developing.

Harriet Muller in Bereft of Colours
Harriet Muller in Bereft of Colours

In fact, a small capsule of our research work with a Mumbai-based blind photographer has been made available online for a while now,” explains Anand, who began writing his script in 2007. Hassan was unavailable for comment.

Same-same
> In 'Ship of Theseus', a photographer named Aaliya (played by Aida El-Kashef) is visually impaired and undergoes a cornea transplant that restores her vision. After the surgery, the paradox deepens with her sight back but art no more the same.

> In Bereft of Colours, an unnamed painter (played by Harriet Muller) has trouble adjusting to her newfound sense of sight and is dissatisfied with her work. In a moment of grief, she injures her own eyes - thus creating a masterpiece in the process.

> Interestingly, both the characters are shown giving an interview to a journalist, highlighting a similar philosophy about the disconnection between art and perception. 

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