In his first, audacious, short film, he used a single editing cut to link together two separate incidents. In his second short, he stitched together different stories into one tapestry. Anand Gandhi’s cinema-as-patchwork preoccupation continues in his stunning debut feature Ship of Theseus. The movie is an expansion of ideas contained in Right Here, Right Now and Continuum as well as a self-reflexive meta narrative about the plastic nature of cinema. Ship of Theseus has been doing the rounds of various film festivals.

Gandhi’s movie is inspired by the philosophical conundrum posed by the Greek philosopher Plutarch. The question of whether an object whose parts are replaced remains the same object is explored through three stories. A blind Egyptian photographer (Aida Elkashef) living in Mumbai ponders on the nature of beauty after she gets back her sight. The second and most accomplished story sees a Jain monk (Neeraj Kabi) forgoing treatment for a liver condition while also fighting a case against animal testing. Finally, a stockbroker (Sohum Shah) gets obsessed with delivering justice to a slum dweller whose kidney gets stolen during a surgical procedure. The stunning climax illuminates the connections between corporeal, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual matters that have been hinted at throughout the 2 hours, 22 minutes narrative.

Heavy-duty stuff, one would imagine, for a 32-year-old film-maker. Gandhi has actually been grappling with these concepts ever since he dropped out of a commerce course at the age of 15. The precocious director, who has written for television and the stage, attended classes in Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism at the University of Mumbai and counts leftist activists and soul-searching philosophers as friends. He will continue to mine metaphysical matters in his upcoming projects, one of which revisits the mass suicide by members of the People’s Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978. Another “super-super ambitious" film uses as its framing device a browser with 30 open windows, each of which leads to a different reality. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How did you give cinematic form to esoteric ideas about the body and the soul?

Sight to behold: Aida Elkashef in Ship of Theseus
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