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Critics' review: Jump aboard Anand Gandhi's Ship of Theseus

Ship of Theseus has sailed with the flag of victory fluttering proudly on its mast. Anand Gandhi's indie has won critics over with the right mix of Indian sensibilities marrying intellectual metaphors. Go watch it.

bollywood Updated: Jul 19, 2013 14:23 IST
Critics. Review,Ship of Theseus,Ship of Thesus review

Ship of Theseus has sailed with the flag of victory fluttering proudly on its mast. Anand Gandhi's indie has won critics over with the right mix of Indian sensibilities marrying intellectual metaphors.

"A pity, for what makes Ship of Theseus the best film since Kieslowski died is precisely this: that Gandhi is grounded in the reality of Indian emotions - bombastic and contrived though they may seem at times - for him to occasionally fly away to unimaginable heights," writes Anand Ranganathan in NewsLaundry in light of the fact that Gandhi's colourful career graph includes scriptwriting for saas-bahu serials on prime-time TV.

Pointing out how Gandhi has mastered the art of getting the balance right, Ranganathan writes, "behind every great work of art is an artist who realises this. Gandhi is one such man. He should be proud that his unsinkable ship sailed off from the saas-bahu port."

"Written and directed by debutant Anand Gandhi, Ship Of Theseus is at once introspective, provocative and intriguing. It is as assured a first film as any that we might have seen in the history of Indian cinema.

Sounds like an accolade too high? Every bit of the praise is fully deserved," compliments Saibal Chatterjee wholeheartedly on NDTV.

"Ship Of Theseus is so universal in scope and appeal that the human, artistic and ethical issues it raises would be valid anywhere in the world," Chatterjee adds.

Sanjukta Sharma writes something rather unexpected for a film like Ship of Theseus in Live Mint.
"Anand Gandhi's Ship of Theseus is a frightening film."

Confused? Well, she means well, because she adds, "Ship of Theseus is a passionate and clever film, brimming with sharp and original interpretations of age-old philosophy."

Bringing out the film's multi-lingual Indian-ness Sukanya Verma writes in, ""Though primarily set in Mumbai, Ship of Theseus converses in English, Arabic, Hindi and Swedish through its deftly-penned script by Gandhi, where language changes its tone and texture according to given setting with remarkable fluency. "

Furthermore, she thinks that Anand Gandhi's characters are identifiable, "He sets his ambitious ideas on soul recycling around people we know or pass by, exchanges we've heard and participated in, around places we belong or are acquainted with but seldom, or perhaps never, visit on big screen."

"But it's Neeraj Kabi's mild-mannered but sharp wit (when he indulges young intern Charvaka (an earnest Vinay Shukla), staggering physical transformation and a performance that demonstrates such intrinsic connection/commitment towards the principles he's striving for that truly stands out as the best in this film and among the best this year," she writes.

However, every critic has a different favourite.

"Leaving aside the astounding artistry of Gandhi, Ship of Theseus is noteworthy in one other aspect: it has introduced to us an actor the likes of whom hasn't been seen in Indian cinema for decades - Sohum Shah. If the film deserves five stars, then this man deserves at least a constellation. Or better, let a constellation be named in his honour so other actors can look up and admire his brilliance from time to time," insists Ranganathan.

And as Mihir Fadnavis writes in Firstpost, "Aida El-Kashef is extremely compelling as a blind photographer who has learned to compose images using a voice-activated camera."

Tough choice, eh?

As for the film, Fadnavis writes that its "credibility lies in its simple but solid, ideological arguments, echoed constantly throughout its unforgettable imagery and music. Gandhi's style is deliberate and the build-up of each dilemma is provocative, carefully laid out for the personal odysseys of the three protagonists, which reach a powerful and moving conclusion."

And the Variety review applauds the films honesty.

"While "Ship of Theseus" doesn't shy away from its Western-inspired influences, the film fully embraces its Indian roots."

There is, however, a singular voice of dissent. Deepanjana Pal notes (yet again) in First Post, "Gandhi, who has written and directed Ship of Theseus, is an erudite filmmaker. From philosophy, curious biological phenomena and a debate about whether an ideal can exist independent of its champions, there's a wealth of thought-provoking little nuggets scattered in the conversations that make up the film. Unfortunately, this erudition is also Ship of Theseus's downfall. The story is so obsessed with articulating concepts that the dialogue becomes laboured, characterisation suffers and credibility is stretched to breaking point."

Well, well.

First Published: Jul 19, 2013 13:51 IST