Captain of the Ship

Steering clear of being typecast,filmmaker Anand Gandhi says he makes films for everyone

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Pune | Published:June 23, 2013 3:08 am

The term “Ship of Theseus”,is defined as “a paradox that raises the question of whether an object,which has had all its components replaced,fundamentally remains the same object”. The phenomenon,pondered over by ancient philosophers such as Heraclitus,Socrates and Plato,forms the underlying theme in the film Ship of Theseus. Written and directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Anand Gandhi,the film revolves around the lives of three individuals — a talented blind photographer,an ailing,idealist monk and a dispassionate,young stockbroker.

In Pune to promote the film and interact with the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Gandhi seemed excited to talk about his film. “We started working on this film about four years ago and the project then took a life of its own,” says Gandhi.

The 32-year-old director,who wrote and directed school plays at the age of 12,won the National Award for his play Sugandhi in his late teens. He also wrote about a hundred episodes for two television soap operas,Kyunki… Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi… and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii,which went on to become some of the most popular shows in the history of Indian television.

After dropping out of formal education and finishing a diploma in philosophy — his passion for philosophy has been evident in all his works — Gandhi travelled across India,meeting people,writing,performing and attending a series of workshops on subjects varying from Gandhian economics to quantum physics. He made Right Here,Right Now in 2003 with borrowed money and friends. The 30-minute film deals with the idea of cyclic causality,focusing on the butterfly effect set in motion by a young man’s two actions.

Satisfied by the reception of Ship of Theseus at film festivals the world over,Gandhi considers himself a “privileged” filmmaker. “Things turned out for the best for me. When we took the film to various film festivals,all the right people saw it. Members of the Critics’ Circle,UK,were invited to select and introduce a screening of ‘the film that changed their life’,to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organisation. The list of 15 films included The 400 Blows,Annie Hall,Raging Bull,The Battle of Algiers and Hamlet. The president of the British Federation of Film Societies,Derek Malcolm chose Ship of Theseus,” says Gandhi.

Ask him whether he considers himself an indie filmmaker,Mumbai-based Gandhi promptly replies that terms such as “new wave”,“indie”,and “arthouse cinema” are grossly abused. “I make films for everyone. I think the Indian audience is ready to watch and enjoy intelligent cinema. Filmmakers are insulting their own audience by thinking otherwise,” he says.

Quoting a recent book he has been reading,titled The Reluctant Optimist by Matt Ridley,he says,“In the book,Ridley says that he has an advantage over Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith,simply because he has read him. Similarly,I have the advantage of having watched films by great filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal,” he explains.

As the conversation drifts from idealism to cinematic language and narrative metaphors in his films,Gandhi agrees that a big name and banner always help in getting a film noticed easily. Kiran Rao,filmmaker and wife of actor Aamir Khan,is presenting Gandhi’s debut project Ship of Theseus that opens in Mumbai,Pune,Delhi,Bangalore and Kolkata in July,along with UTV Motion pictures.

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