Cast: Neeraj Kabi, Aida El-Kashef, Sohum Shah, Vinay Shukla, Sameer Khurana
Direction: Anand Gandhi
This philosophical paean is a 3-part story, each one as complex, conflicting and contemplative. In the first, Aliya (Aida) is a photographer with impaired vision. She depends on sound, touch and intuitive senses to capture images. After a corneal implant her eyesight is restored, but the sudden visual download is so domineering that Aliya finds herself overwhelmed in an unfamiliar world, losing touch with her natural instincts.
The second is an introspective debate between a monk, Maitreya (Neeraj-in an excellent performance) - who staunchly opposes use of animals for scientific research - and a young lawyer Charvaka (Vinay) who challenges Maitreya's non-violent world-view. The monk is diagnosed with an illness that requires organ transplant, but he'd rather die than sacrifice his principles.
The third is about a stock-broker, Navin (Sohum), who has survived a kidney transplant, but is shaken out of his self-consumed life when he learns all about the illicit organ trade.
The film refers to an ancient paradox in which the Athenians replaced each rotting plank in the ship of Theseus until none of the original planks were left. It sparked an intellectually stimulating debate: Does it still remain fundamentally the same ship? It's shot mostly in documentary style, delving over similar philosophical queries - 'Who we are, how our thoughts can impact the universe, and how we tackle self-transformation and battle internal conflicts'.
Gandhi's ruminative subject, catering to art-house cinema lovers (has won critical acclaim in international film festivals), is deeply layered and beautifully intricate. He doesn't compromise artistic depth for commerce, even for a moment, though the story-telling is not without flaws. The pace is exhaustingly slow and scenes monotonously long. This idea could be compressed into smaller 'lifeboats' and still sail safe. The monk's deeply profound story stands out.
There's a light moment in the film where the monk is asked, "If you are celibate, why this intellectual masturbation?" Well, watch this if you are ready for some soul-searching that ends with an intellectual orgasm