In early 2000s, NDTV Profit aired a T.V. programme where short films were shown and discussed over with the film maker himself. It was my introduction to the format and was fascinated by the stories and concepts in those films. However, only one film stayed with me over all these years- Anand Gandhi’s Right Here Right Now. (please watch the short if you still haven’t: part 1 | part 2)
I had been keenly awaiting the release of Gandhi’s debut feature knowing very well that his sense of grammar of films would change the general perception of cinema. But the first look of Ship of Theseus made me realize that the film was here to go beyond that !
Here is my interview with the film maker.
How was Ship of Theseus formed? Was it a central theme first, around which you constructed your plot, or certain disjointed events which fascinated you, which you wove together with a connecting thread?
With Ship of Theseus, there were couple of ideas that kept on going in my mind for a long time. Then one story idea came to my mind which is now the end of the film and which had a co-relation with the philosophy I was trying to convey. The story idea sort of gave me platform for that philosophy.
Which of the three stories is closest to your heart?
All the three stories are extremely close to my heart. They are an introspection of my journey in one way or the other, bundled with the stories of many other people I have seen, met or heard of in my life!
Some portions of the film have been shot in Sweden. The principal photography spanned over many months. Unknown faces were chosen over mainstream actors. Everything about making of the film has defied the compromises indie filmmakers make owing to constraint of resources. How come you never succumbed to any pressure?
Because I never had any pressure apart from creative ones. I had a team that stood by me and believed in the film from day one to the last. Sohum Shah, who acted in the film, financed it entirely and stood like a rock to make the film happen. We never felt any pressure during the course of making the film. We were completely free.
What if Kiran Rao had not come on board?
It would definitely have been more challenging. We might have gone for a guerilla way of distributing and would have had a limited release with whatever money we could have put in. We are still having a limited release, but with Kiran coming on board there definitely has been more attention, media coverage, interviews, better marketing and distribution. Maybe if she hadn’t been there we would have relied more on word of mouth publicity leading to wider distribution.
But don’t you think with Kiran and UTV coming on board, the independent nature of film somehow has got lost. Or do you think it’s a necessary evil?
I don’t think it’s evil at all. Kiran is not a mainstream actor. Over the last few years, the kind of work she has done, the kind of movie she has made, the kind of culture & art she has tried to promote is extremely relevant. Her coming on board does not defeat the purpose but rather strengthens it. We have managed to keep the independent nature of the film intact with the kind of infrastructure she has brought in and it has more to do with what she believes in. In fact tomorrow if some movie intrigues me I would do whatever I can to help it out.
Its little ironical that while you might herald a new era of film making with Ship of Theseus, you were also a part of two T.V. serials – Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi & Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki- which started a phase in television which we are not extremely proud of today. Your thoughts on the same.
Yeah I know the range of things I have been involved in. That these are completely different things I have been involved in. At that point of time (when I started writing for television), I was 19 years old. (The short film – Right Here Right Now happened 3 years later). You are young and you are interested in lots of things. But whatever I have done, whether it is T.V., or Right Here Right Now, or Continuum (my second short film) or this Film, I have received a lot of appreciation for all of them. All my works have been received with lot of warmth and I feel happy, content and assured that I got a chance to play in different areas of the craft.
The air-hostess voice over at the beginning of Ship of Theseus promo. The cacophony as part of background score in Right Here Right Now. You always manage to pick up elements from seemingly mundane stuff around us and weave it rhythmically into the narrative. From where did you take this inspiration?
I find it extremely important to do that. To find nuances, to find ironies, discover paradoxes and weave them into the screenplay in the most engaging manner possible. I try to constantly juxtapose them with our daily normal activities and achieve an order with them. I work on the script, etch out characters with details, give them a back story, work on the narrative structure and then I create the order and design which would encompass them. Within that order and design created I try to achieve a perfectly working illusion of spontaneity.
Which other philosophical paradoxes do you want to explore in future through your movies?
I am interested in all sorts of unsolved problems, not just paradoxes – which largely, are perceived inconsistencies in logic, and become triggers for critical thinking. (Most paradoxes, on further observation turn out to be not paradoxes at all). So you can say, I would aspire to some kind of critical thinking in all my future work.
Finally, your thoughts on the digital distribution strategy that the film has adopted. How has the response been so far and what the future holds for such a strategy in India?
With digital distribution strategy people are able to bring in the film to their city with adequate number of votes. The strategy has been extremely successful and just what the nature of the movie demanded. We are already releasing the film in Hyderabad and Chennai owing to the response we have got from these polls. Ahmedabad and Kochi are also not far behind and might see a release soon. I really want my film to be seen by as many people as possible. It is a continuous battle that we are fighting and shall hopefully take the film to maximum number of cities.