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Movie review: 'Ship of Theseus'

Once in a while comes a film like this one, which along with shaking your core, also manages to make you grateful for being a humble part of the audience. 'Ship of Theseus' is one such rare film.

'Ship of Theseus' review
A still from 'Ship of Theseus'

Three stories set in Mumbai. Each so real that you can feel their breath on your cheek and each raising one question, do changing circumstances change the very fibre of our being?

The title, 'Ship of Theseus', is inspired by a Greek philospher’s musing — if a ship that is changed plank by plank, log by log, will it still be the same that it started out as? The protagonists of the three stories of Anand Gandhi’s film go through a similar fate, of that of the ship.

Photographer Aaliya Kamal (Aida E Kashef) is visually challenged but she with the aid of her other heightened senses and her voice-activated camera shoots great pictures. She is in the process of getting her cornea transplanted and is hoping to get her sight back. Even though the surgery is successful, Aaliya’s hope for a better life turns into despair when she struggles with this new found sense of sight, which somewhat mutes her other senses, thus resulting in mediocre photography.

Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) is a revolutionary who is fighting against animal testing in India. When he is struck with a liver ailment, he decides to practise what he preaches and refuses any medication that could have used animal testing. The idealist in Maitreya is challenged by a young lawyer (Vinay Shukla), who in the most practical manner tries to make the monk understand that all his ideologies will appear foolish and die along with him, if he refuses to allow himself be cured. 

A stockbroker Navin (Soham Shah, who’s also the co-producer of the film) is shocked to find that the kidney that was given to him could have been stolen from someone. He sets about trying to make things right, in whatever way possible, even “return the kidney”, if need be.

Mumbai shown with warts and all, is yet beautiful (cinematography through a hand-held camera by Pankaj Kumar). Even as the director in Anand Gandhi is admirable, it is the writer in him that got me awestruck. For me, the highlight of the film is the spirited and playfully affectionate conversation between the monk and the young lawyer. Those dialogues are easily one of the best in cinema since a long, long time.

Every actor in this film has come up with commendable performances, but a special mention has to be made of Neeraj Kabi, who not only essayed his character with conviction, but also went through an alarming physical transformation, as he degenerates into almost a skeleton during the advanced stages of his illness. Think Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. Aida E Kashif (the Egyptian filmmaker-turned-actress) is brilliant as someone who’s blind and vulnerable but with a tremendous inner strength.

Subtly and gently, with a quiet confidence, 'Ship of Theseus' questions the pre-judgements that each of us can be accused of, based on a person’s handicap, choice of career or the ideologies that they have embraced. And in a little way it manages to chip away some of the rust that we have formed around our opinions.

Watching this movie is a spiritual and uplifting experience. Don’t miss it, for your sake.

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