Ship of Theseus Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

Rating: 4.5

Cast: Aida El-Kashef, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah, Vinay Shukla, Sameer Khurana

Director: Anand Gandhi

Ship of Theseus, written and directed by Anand Gandhi, requires patience, an open mind, and a willingness to think. It’s not enough to merely sit there in your seat and ‘watch’ the film, but to listen attentively to its characters and consider their arguments. If you’re willing to make that investment, you’ll be rewarded with a richly emotional, intellectual, and sensory experience.

The film follows three separate stories that raise pertinent questions about identity, death, and morality. In the first, we’re introduced to Aliya (Aida El-Kashef), a blind photographer who uses intuition to capture brilliant black-and-white images. A cornea transplant restores her vision, but she fears she may have lost her inspiration. In the second and most affecting story, we meet Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi), a Jain monk and staunch animal-rights activist, who is diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and must consider a transplant. On discovering that the medication that could save his life might have been tested on animals, he refuses treatment. The third story is centered on Naveen (Sohum Shah), a stockbroker and the recent recipient of a donated kidney. He becomes obsessed with bringing justice to a poor man he meets, whose kidney was illegally stolen during an appendix surgery.

These three strands interconnect satisfyingly in a moving climax, and tie in neatly with the overarching philosophical idea thrown up by the film’s title: Does a ship, whose every part has been replaced piece by piece, remain the same ship in the end? Gandhi applies this paradox skillfully to the human body, asking if a person who has had an organ transplant is still the same person he previously was.

Giving us a nice lived-in feel of each of their worlds, Gandhi takes us inside the minds of our three protagonists, showing us what they stand for, and how they’ve changed over the course of the journey they undertake during the film. Each of our protagonists engages in intelligent, thought-provoking arguments, and it’s hard not to come away deeply affected by some of the issues raised. The verbal sparring between the monk and a young lawyer-in-training is particularly engaging, and full of insightful gems worth considering.

Languidly paced and lushly filmed, Ship of Theseus is just as rich cinematically, and benefits from terrific performances by each of the protagonists, particularly Kabi whose physical transformation as the ailing monk is a sight to behold. Gandhi gives us a fine supporting cast too, that occasionally infuses humor in a film that otherwise stings from its brutal honesty.

I’m going with four and a half out of five for Ship of Theseus. It stimulates the one organ that popular Hindi cinema consistently ignores – the brain! Give it a chance and prepare to be dazzled.


  1. Avatar
    sameer 8 years ago

    I missed this film at MAMI Film festival last year. They show some brilliant films at MAMI Film festival and Kashish Film Festival… the two big film festivals in Mumbai…I will try to see Ship of Theseus this week but so less screenings of the film at the rare theatres showing it…Hope to see it….

  2. Avatar
    Anjanpur685Miles 8 years ago

    Well, the thing is this movie is not playing in all theaters even in Bangalore (Aamir Khan strongest territory and Kiran Rao’s hometown) – its only playing in some parts of bangalore and only for few shows.
    So cant watch it even after the strong recco from the duo …

    The photography looks good from promos. Hope to catch it soon somewhere.

  3. Avatar Author
    sputnik 8 years ago

    moifightclub posted this article about one part of the movie being similar to a student film and the director Anand Gandhi has responded.

    Bereft Of Colours is weirdly similar to 1/3 Ship Of Theseus

    “We came across this short film called “Bereft Of Colours” and it looks suspiciously similar to one of the three stories of Ship Of Theseus. At least on the concept level. Have a look and let us know what you think. Do post your views in the comments section.

    We are not exactly sure when the film was made. If anyone knows more about it, please do inform us in the comments section.”



    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’.

    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.”

    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.

    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.

    > 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.


  4. Avatar Author
    sputnik 7 years ago

    Good spoof of An Indian Arthouse Film (ft. Ronit Roy | Anurag Kashyap | Vikramaditya Motwane) : TMO Qtiyapa Ep.3 – Spaceship of Pretentious

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