With Kiran Rao at the helm, Anand Gandhi’s acclaimed Ship Of Theseus is all set to sail the Indian seas. Will local waters part for the duo?
Anand Gandhi is at an interesting moment in his life. His film, Ship Of Theseus, has picked up awards from festivals in Tokyo, Dubai, London, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, but he still hasn’t realised that people might be interested in knowing him or his work. He has a spring in his step, talks to everyone and is very inquisitive, but is slightly spooked when the media comes chasing. “It’s all too new for me,” he admits readily. “Maybe Kiran [Rao] can teach me how she handles the attention so well.”
Rao, who is presenting the film, is a surprise too. She walks up to me, puts a hand around my shoulder and asks if I’m ready for the interview. She then shouts out to Gandhi to join us. On an overcast evening, at Mehboob Studios, we chat about the film, art, and Bollywood.
What about the Theseus paradox intrigued you to make the movie?
Anand: It all started in 2005, when I was battling with many ideas – questions of identity, the inevitability of change and the constant state of fluxes. Obviously the solutions were elusive for the longest time. But I realised that the question of identity is central to all problems. That is when the Theseus paradox [see box] hit me. Originally, it was a very small part of another feature idea I was working on. But the more we spoke about it, the more I understood that it merited a movie of its own. In the movie, the paradox is just a thread that weaves the film together. It is a springboard for each of the three very real stories that you and I have experienced.
Kiran, when did you come on board and what made you do it?
Kiran: I watched the movie at the Naya Cinema Film Festival towards the end of 2012 and it blew me away. I wasn’t prepared for how much it would affect me. But I never thought I could be a part of it. I was just a member of the adoring audience. After the movie, I met Anand and asked if he needed help selling the movie. Thankfully he said yes.
If we don’t support independent artists then brilliant movies like Ship of Theseus will go unwatched. All films, no matter what genre, need to be given a chance. That is why I’m supporting this film. It is a film that everyone should watch.
Anand: With Kiran coming on board, I get to attach her name to my film. She has a great fan following and has spent the last few years engaging the audience in parallel yet
commercial films. It is a great boost for an independent filmmaker like me because I get to use the infrastructure that she has built over the years for my film. We stand for the same kind of cinema and she has seen commercial success. That gives me hope.
How did you go about selling a film as niche as this?
Kiran: You’ll be surprised to know that there is a market for these movies in unlikely cities like Thoothukudi, Sri Ganganagar and Coimbatore. The number is small but not insignificant. If there is an audience there, there is definitely an audience in the bigger cities.
Anand: I don’t understand why people think the movie is too niche or out-of-the-box. It is a very simple movie about identity crisis. When I was making the movie, I intended it to be seen by everyone, not just the festival janta. Yes, there is scope for philosophical inquiry. But philosophical inquiry, whether informed or not, happens to everyone who
consumes any art. This movie, like any other piece of art, will make you think and that will in turn make you participate in the film.
A few years ago, a movie like this would not have seen a theatrical release. What has changed now?
Kiran: It has to be the audience. Mostly filmmakers make movies that people want to watch, films which are a reflection of the society at the time. Of course, the Hindi film industry is also expanding and letting filmmakers find their voice and not dictating terms to them.
Anand: I am working on Tumbaad with Sohum Shah and am very excited about participating in Kiran’s writing process.
Kiran: I just want a long vacation! Then I’ll start chiselling away.
THE THESEUS PARADOX
In simple words, if you were to replace all parts of an object one by one, then would that object remain the same object? For example, if you were to replace each part of a ship with a new part, would that ship still be the original ship? And if you were to reassemble the ship with its discarded parts, which one the two ships would be the original ship?
From HT Brunch, July 21
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