Ship of Theseus (2013)

Written by  //  July 21, 2013  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  19 Comments

There’s a moment in Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus when a young legal intern in the middle of a long didactic spiel, hesitatingly asks an ailing monk who refuses to take medicine because of his principled objection to animal testing, that if monks are celibate then why this ‘intellectual masturbation’? I wasn’t sure whether to laugh—Here was a man dying of liver cirrhosis accompanied by a well-founded and entirely convincing principled opposition to animal testing, a boy sufficiently old, wise and previously chastised to realise that his offhand and childish attempts at making him rethink his principle wouldn’t work (he had earlier ludicrously compared the monk to a terrorist because he was non-consensually inflicting harm on others) and a director perceptive enough to grasp that at a crucial moment of the film story-wise, an interminable faux professorial monologue by an upstart infused with quips of this nature were grossly-ill timed. If it was meant to be funny, I didn’t get the joke. At the same time I wasn’t sure whether it was making a deeper philosophical point. After all for an average Bollywood movie-goer like me, watching a critically acclaimed offbeat film, makes me doubly aware of my own inadequacies in failing to grasp fundamental philosophical propositions which suitably erudite viewers would appreciate before one could say ‘Plato’ and would have several deeper tropes of enquiry regarding before one could get anywhere near saying ‘Aristotle’. Was the director trying to make us think, I nervously asked myself, whether indeed ‘celibacy’ widely understood as abstinence from sex, includes abstinence from masturbation, a unilateral attempt at replicating aspects of the sexual act, despite not being sex itself?

While this second-order question itself is an interesting one, it is beside the point. For me, the legal intern’s question was symptomatic of a film that, like a trainee lawyer whose mind is filled with half-baked thoughts, is fundamentally unsure of the questions that it is asking. This is not to suggest even for a moment that I wanted easy answers or resolutions at the end of the movie so that I could go back home feeling vindicated much like I did after watching Dabangg. Quite to the contrary, my expectation was more modest— the questions that the movie-makers wanted us to think about, the ones that its characters and the stories were attempting to develop through their own journeys and complexities, should have been clearly depicted and more powerfully etched. As it was, at the end of the movie, I was walking down the steps of the theatre towards the exit with a bewildering array of muddled thoughts which congealed into a serene nothingness as I stepped outside. It’s been a day since and twenty-fours have only concretised the extant nothingness, neither clarifying the deep philosophical questions that the movie is meant to be asking nor striking a delayed emotional chord through the three personal stories the movie tries to tell. And before you say that muddled thoughts are good and making me think about random questions such as the definition of celibacy is itself testament to the intellectual prowess of the movie, let me just say this— a bad argument doesn’t become a good one because it confuses you and makes you think why it doesn’t work.

Problematically, the philosophical premise of the film which lends it its title is the ship of Theseus paradox, is a category error (Henceforth, I use Ship of Theseus to refer to the movie and ship of Theseus to refer to the paradox). In philosophy, the ship of Theseus has been a long-standing paradox because the question of identity of the ship each of whose planks was removed and replaced by other planks, could be seen as contingent either on the continuity of form (the argument was that though its planks were removed, the new planks put together constitute the same ship because it had the same form) or the identity of original parts (this issue was made acute by Thomas Hobbes who put forward the situation that the old planks were put together to make another ship, which arguably was identical with the original ship of Theseus). Today, it is widely acknowledged that continuity of form is a sufficient and non-defeasible condition of identity. It is specifically non-defeasible in relation to the identity of parts condition.

Irrespective of the philosophical merits of the view (see here and here for more on this), the question of identity is an issue for the ship of Theseus because of complete disassembly and consequent replacement. This question of complete disassembly does not arise in the situation presented by Ship of Theseus at all. The closest we come to such disassembly is when we are told at the climax that it was a single brain dead hobbyist cave explorer, eight of whose body parts were now donated to others. But in this case there was no replacement of these parts because the donor was dead. On the contrary, where there was replacement, in the bodies of the three protagonists, there is no disassembly. For example, if you give your watch whose minute hand is broken for repair, and the minute hand is replaced by the repairer, because of the replacement of a minute hand, the watch does not lose its identity. Since it maintains the continuity of form it is still your watch. So if the ship of Theseus had only one plank changed with another it wouldn’t have been the paradox that it is today. On the contrary, if The Ship of Theseus, had a few planks changed, well…

What is most baffling is that irrespective of the questionable philosophical premise, the treatment of the actual changes that are caused by the organ donations in the lives of the protagonists is surprisingly slipshod. The first track of the blind photographer was pregnant with possibility about how vision changed her identity. But apart from a scene where she wilfully blindfolds herself to find inspiration and the final scene where she seems to have finally found some visual inspiration, this possibility is left largely unexplored, perhaps even sacrificed for the sake of an overly intricate character development. The third track, where such change in identity is dealt with head on as a kidney recipient makes a forced kidney recipient’s struggle for justice his own, loses steam, trying to grapple with too many incidental issues—the kidney racket in India, the familiar tale of the poor and their satisfaction with material well-being as opposed to real justice (perhaps unwittingly portrayed as a plaything of the rich) and the use of large amounts of money as a means to assuage guilt. Most bafflingly, the second track of the ascetic, beautifully shot, does not deal with the question of change and identity at all curiously stopping with the monk’s equally baffling volte face to suddenly agree to a liver transplant when the set up led you to believe that he was fasting unto death. Perhaps it’s best to leave questions of petty causality out when discussing a movie that deals with big philosophical tropes.

More than the movie which left me intellectually dissatisfied, the parroting of the movie’s supposedly path-breaking philosophical enquiries by large numbers of go-to movie reviewers, left me deeply doubtful of the quality and competence of the professional movie reviewing class in India. While certainly, I take no objection to the fact that personally they may have found the film tasteful, beautifully shot and worthy of compliment (though I’m very inclined to saying that they’re entitled to their opinions but they’re wrong), to call it ‘brimming with sharp and original interpretations of age-old philosophy (Mint), ‘a richly emotional, intellectual and sensory experience’ (CNN-IBN) and ‘one of the finest Indian films of recent times’ (NDTV), is inexplicable without casting substantial doubt about their own calibre. Perhaps I’m being too uncharitable and each of them may be right in some way- Ship of Theseus is brimming with original interpretations of age-old philosophy except that such interpretations are plainly flawed, which is why they are original; it is a richly emotional, intellectual and sensory experience, which made me feel emotionally indifferent, which in turn led to an intellectual enquiry (indifference is surely an emotion, or is it not?), which in turn led to a strong sensory urge without which my humble intellect cannot function: Hunger. (This in turn, led to another question as to whether hunger despite being not one of the five senses we’re taught can actually be a ‘sensory’ urge(?) and thus the virtuous cycle of emotion, intellect and sensory experience continued).  And finally, this actually may be one of the finest Indian films of recent times that the NDTV reviewer had seen, which is not testimony to how good Ship of Theseus is but just how bad the other movies he has the singular misfortune to watch and review are. That the universality of praise in these inexplicably over-the-top reviews had something to do with the fact that the film had won widespread international recognition and was cleverly marketed as an offbeat, low-budget film that you must praise if you want to be seen socially as a cultured, thinking reviewer is a hard conclusion to dismiss. As is the conclusion that the professional reviewer in India needs to develop balls, or at least some brains, though a combination of both would hopefully not be asking for too much.

In a new India where people are more attracted to Twitter than literature, T-20 cricket than test matches and mindless Bollywood than serious cinema, with the Ship of Theseus Anand Gandhi boldly tries to reverse this trend. For this he must be widely applauded. He is undoubtedly a director of great potential, with a wonderful eye and a propensity to think deeply about things around him. Unfortunately in translating these skills to celluloid, he tries too hard to win our hearts with human stories while tickling our brains with purported philosophical paradoxes. In the process of attempting to win both heart and head, Gandhi gets stuck somewhere in between—like an unsavoury taste in the mouth.

19 Comments on "Ship of Theseus (2013)"

  1. mohit July 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm · Reply

    Sahi likha h bhai..

  2. Darpan Majumdar July 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm · Reply

    This is indeed a very well thought out piece. Though at the expense of asking for more, I think you could have delved a little more after the ‘review bit’, seemed to me, a bit hurried at the end.

    But overall, it was indeed well written and drives home the point.

    Will be reading CT on a regular basis.



  3. Kunal Chandra July 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm · Reply

    While I am not in favor of patronizing/celebrating the film in order to perpetuate an already established critical media hype…I do have problems with the analysis presented in this post, problems strong enough to elicit a response. Your analysis is far too straitjacketed, evaluating cinematic experience simply on the basis of the logical accuracy of the purported philosophical problem, and the strange, almost opinionated refusal to see the questions manifest themselves in diverse, apparently contradictory yet related spectra of existence. Yes, there is no logical mapping of a complete dis-assembly, no obvious human interpretation of the question of form and identity in an exactitude paralleling the Theseus paradox. There is however, a tangential extension to the paradox, a growth of thought that takes off from the questions of form and identity, and moves towards questions situated between our rational perception of existence, our perceptions of transformation in form and identity, and the ideas of transmigration and the mutually interdependent movement of life. This broader idea of ‘movement’ and the imperceptible nature of its definitions/boundaries…extends itself to the questions faced by the blind photographer in her creative journey, the spiritual/ethical/existential debate that the ascetic finds himself in…or the kidney recipient as his ethical consciousness makes sense of movement in an socially and culturally diverse economic system. ‘The Ship Of Theseus’ for that matter itself, is hard to define as a film. It is too literal for a work of cinema, too cinematically denotative for visual literature…it is NOT a character driven drama, there is no attempt at generating identification, even though it does have stories about characters, movements and contexts. What qualifies it as a sufficiently respectable work of art however, is its reflection upon systems related to life and the philosophically tentative exploration of their trans’form’ing movements in three different aspects of existence. It is an emotional, intellectual, sensory journey (and not in the crass way you put it)…and its audio-visual treatment is evocatively in tune with ‘what’ it is attempting to explore. This ‘what’ however is a gap that the film cannot fulfill without engagement, questioning or reflection from the viewer in concern. The film’s not going to feed you a striking revelation on a platter, nope, and certainly not as long as your quest is interpretation, as opposed to engagement and reflection.
    P.S – The ascetic’s volte face was the point, NOT the resolution or the answer, but the point. Recall the story of the ant and virus as narrated by Charvaka and see if it tells you something. Also, humor isn’t such a bad thing if it brings to light a thought or two. Not every thought needs to be an ‘argument by the filmmaker’. It can simply be just that, a reflection a musing, a thought…that may help you reflect on a certain disposition, perhaps?

  4. Arghya July 22, 2013 at 3:04 am · Reply

    @Darpan and Mohit- thanks very much for your comments, I appreciate it. Darpan, I agree, it does feel rushed at the end. Didn’t want to make the piece too long given the average reader’s limited attention span. Perhaps a sequel!

    @Kunal, thanks very much for your comments, they’re very thought provoking indeed. Your point about an excessively interpretative criticism of the movie would have been well taken, had the film not been one which was actually engaging with the sort of philosophical questions that the Ship of Theseus paradox threw up. Giving these paradoxes so much importance by making it the title of the film itself meant to me that criticising the movie on why it got its philosophical premise wrong, is criticising it on its own terms. For example, I’m not criticising it for not being shot in a certain way (say in black-and-white, which I feel would have added to its appeal), which the photographer in the first track rightly criticises her boyfriend for doing (the other way around actually), which would be merely an expression of subjective opinion. So I do think the criticism is on the terms that the movie sets. And if as you argue the link is tangential then surely a better philosophical premise could have been found, steering well clear of ancient Greek paradoxes that have only a tenuous connection with the themes centrally explored by the film.

    Second, I agree with you entirely when you say: “the film’s not going to feed you a striking revelation on a platter, nope, and certainly not as long as your quest is interpretation, as opposed to engagement and reflection”. I wasn’t look for the low hanging fruit of a few revelations when I went to see the movie and I think my review makes that clear. And most certainly my ‘quest’ if there was any at the time of watching the movie was not interpretation, it was very much engagement and reflection. It’s just that while engaging with the movie and reflecting on it at the time and thereafter I was left without much questioning. I’m glad that on the contrary you were and I think we can safely agree to disagree on the personal questioning or the lack thereof that the film set in motion in each viewer.

    A final point on your post-script. I thought so too that the ascetic’s volte face was key to the point the film was making. But if that was the point why did it happen? Because a kid read a fable that the monk laughed off a few months earlier. I think you’re being very charitable here. Unfortunately my imagination is rather more limited so I was left fumbling. And in any event, if the ship of Theseus had anything to do with this, then surely what happens after the plank was replaced should be part of the point too no?

  5. bharath July 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm · Reply

    @Kunal Chandra Can u pls give an elaborate view of the ant and the virus story that made the monk alter his principles??

  6. Kunal Chandra July 22, 2013 at 7:17 pm · Reply

    thank you Arghya for the taking the time to engage my response with yours. I can’t say that the link between the premise and its subsequent outgrowth/tangent is tenuous. The questions that the paradox raises, that of the nature of form and identity, are questions very strongly imbedded in the ideas of evolution, transformation and relative interdependent movement. This evolution of movement would apply as much to the transmigrating co-existence of life forms as it would to a framework of ideas or economic systems or the creative process of an individual/group or any such systemic phenomena associated with life. The film, for me, reflects on this tentative interdependent flux that everything exists in. What is important to note that it doesn’t try achieving it only through simple conversational reflection or emotional narrative motivation. It also intersperses the narrative with visuals attempting to connect the ideas developing or developed thus far in the narrative into a reflective whole. The image of the ascetics walking through the field intersected by windmills, the ascetic picking fruits in the forest, the deformed foetuses in the biology lab, a fly sitting next to a UV bulb, the image of the centipede walking through the a swarm of human feet….these are all entry points into a sensory associational worth far greater than what simple conversation would achieve. It could be said therefore that a greater reflective sensitivity to the images and sounds, the times at which they emerge, the time for which they stay and the pace at which they move, could perhaps determine and allow for a more rewarding engagement. Coming to the point of the volte face then, is the idea of a laughable fable causing it really the deduction I was making? To begin with, the fable, as per the film was not something Maitreya laughs off months earlier, but the very last time Charvaka is seen speaking to Maitreya, when he was lying on a self imposed withdrawal unto death, well after all debates, perspectives and dispositions had begun to influence Maitreya prior to and during his state of withdrawal. Charvaka begins by speaking, from a small book, about alphabets…musing on the significance of their arrangements to meaning. One of the alphabets names a fungus, and Charvaka goes on to talk about this fungus that infects the central nervous system of ants, manipulating their behavior in order to increase its own transmission. When the fungus has found the perfect spot where conditions are ideal for optimal transmission, it induces the ant to bite down on the stem of a plant, locking its body in place. As the fungus finally starts to feed on its brain, the ant dies. A fungal growth ruptures the head, keeping the exoskeleton intact, and releases spores, that scatter and re-transmit, potentially infecting new victims. There are more than a million kinds of bacteria in the human body. Talk about free will going down the drain, as Charvaka puts it. He then poses the question, what is driving what?…where does man end and his environment begin? Now remember, these questions coming after all the debates concerning relativity and co-existence vis-a-vis free will and the karmic cycle had transpired well in the past. The question mark is on causality and the idea of the soul. Does the soul have an individuated journey, or is its fate connected in some unfathomable yet interdependent way to other souls, inside or outside, past or present. Is the distinction between the replaced plank and original plank really that fathomable. It is a question with no real answers, strong enough to plant doubt in Maitreya’s convictions, a doubt strong enough to not make him discontinue his quest in the living form. When an old man asks a dying Maitreya whether souls actually exist, he says, in a very honest moment, that he doesn’t know. From a mythic heroic standpoint, perhaps Maitreya’s volte face may seem baffling and disappointing, but from the point of view of his doubt, his deciding that it is not yet his time, is perhaps the suspension the film wanted to posit. To criticize or not criticize this is a personal choice but I would not call this a weakness, cause then I’d only be adhering to a heroic identification, something the film is clearly not indulging in. I hope that’s elaborate enough for you, Bharat.

    • bharath July 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm · Reply

      @ Kunal Chandra Firstly thank you for time and patience in order to give a reply to my question.Secondly your reply has given me more questions..Here goes.. Is Charvaka connecting free will with a fungus and its action to kill an ant..if so how is that possible?? and how does the question of where does man end and his environment begin relevant in this context??
      Hope you will answer these questions..

  7. Kunal Chandra July 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm · Reply

    @Bharath – What the fungus basically does is control the ant’s sense of perception and behavior. Quite simply put, the decisions which the ant would believe it makes in such a state are not its own. The ant’s ‘free will’ so as to say is actually a flux of behavior servicing another living organism. Now there are about a million bacteria residing in a human body. Who knows what functionality of which microorganism is driving or influencing our perceptions/decision making/desires in which direction? I am not implying that this is most certainly the case, but it’s very much possible…it is a valid possibility. Now, with free will and rational thinking being largely associated with identity, where really is the distinction between purely rational behavior and behavior that is connected to or affected by life existing within and without? Therefore, the question, where does man end and his environment begin? I am not saying deterministically that there is no free will, but there is certainly a doubt, and it cannot be said for certain that it is possible to clearly behave, perceive or make choices in a way that is completely unaffected by the influences of the environment, internal or external.

    • Bharath July 25, 2013 at 3:10 pm · Reply

      @Kunal Chandra More thoughts.. How do you apply the concept of free will to a fungus or an ant or bacteria.. as there is no rational thinking involved there?? Even if we consider the case where our choices are affected by internal environment ( which in itself a doubt), in the context of the movie doesn’t it look like a thin argument for the monk to have changed his principles???

  8. Simar July 26, 2013 at 11:53 am · Reply

    Can you guys help me with the name of the book that Charvaka reads out? The small book of alphabets?


  9. Kunal Chandra July 26, 2013 at 1:01 pm · Reply

    @Bharath – In the case of the ant…the concept of free will shouldn’t be forcefully taken in the exactitude of its meaning. For the ant..’rational free will’ is certainly not the right term..but the idea being put forward is related to the fact that the ant’s behavior or perception (which is both instinctual composite and initiator of various functional decisions taken by the ant over a period of time) is drastically affected and put in service by another life form. To suppose if a human being’s behavior and sense of perception is affected by his environment(external or internal)…it would most certainly affect his sense of awareness and therefore, his rational thought process. As I have said earlier, so do I say now, this ‘idea’ that the film puts forward is NOT a logical argument justifying the monk’s volte face. Also, speaking purely in the film’s context, it’s not just what this boy and the boy’s family tells the monk over a period of time, it is also the time the monk spends away from everything, his withdrawal and attempted isolation from his environment, his suffering and his reflection, that build up to the choice he eventually makes. He does eventually begin doubting his principles, but he doesn’t discard them just because one enlightening story radically convinced him to think otherwise…he discards them because he realizes, over a period of time, suffering and contemplation, that his questions are not answered yet, and that perhaps the conviction that he held on his beliefs about the soul and identity, need revisiting. To reiterate, the film isn’t operating on ‘dialogue’ or ‘logic’ or ‘argument’ alone. Cinematically speaking, there is good use of sound scape, visual metaphor, progression and time to build towards a boiling point of reason/decision. If one were to consider this idea as the only argument for a volte face, I agree it would seem trivial and thin. But then again, it is an idea and not a justifying logical argument, and it is not the only idea.

  10. Bharath July 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm · Reply

    @Kunal Chandra I agree with you that the monk changed his principles because he realizes, over a period of time, suffering and contemplation, that his questions are not answered yet, and that perhaps the conviction that he held on his beliefs about the soul and identity, need revisiting.But why is the repercussion of the volte face left open ended? And pardon me if this question seems futile…What’s the point in connecting the three stories at the end??

  11. Sowmya July 28, 2013 at 7:04 am · Reply

    Hi Arghya and Kunal,

    My take on this is somewhere precariously perched between both your takes.

    Arghya, agree with you, in that, having heard so much about the “thought” behind the movie, the “addressing” and “treatment” of the titular philosophical issue was itself, somewhat underwhelming. When I walked out of the theatre, the eager anticipation with which I walked in, was replaced with a quizzical expression, more like an itch whose existence I was only vaguely aware of, let alone being able to identify its position and then reach out and scratch it.

    You will note the excessive use of “somewhere, somewhat” in the para, but in my opinion, there’s no better way to describe the movie. It IS vague, it is even absurd at times (how can the stockbroker ask the poor guy to return the kidney), not to mention a little slow and tedious (like for instance, the bedpan scene – but I know what to do, if an elderly relative needs that assistance). I even think the connection in the end was tenuous (also, is my memory playing tricks, or was the monk dressed in a shirt and trousers in the end?). I would even say some of the dialogues were a little forced, especially the ones mouthed by one of our kind (so smart-alecky, with the ‘masturbation’ thrown in, thinking it’s a masterpiece of a rejoinder).

    BUT, the movie sure as hell, makes one feel the questions that exist (and walks with us side by side) as we go about our lives, thinking we’ve figured out our calling. At least, it identifies the complexities (pardon the cliché) and nudges us to feel the life both within us and outside us. The life of others inside us (not only the organs literally but also the polarized thoughts and priorities (the granny and the stock broker, the boyfriend and the photographer and the monk and the lawyer) and us in them (the grandmother ultimately ‘getting’ that maybe the grandson has inherited a bit of her activism and the monk ‘getting’ that his purpose is not simply fasting unto death as innumerable people have tried to drill into him). So, in that sense who are we? What makes an individual, the same individual? Is it just the organs? Is it the ability of perception? Is it handicap? We are us, yes, but we are also what others think of us (the stockbroker thought that the labourer did not care about material benefits and only wanted his kidney back– but that’s not what it turned out to be). And the most beautiful point the movie makes (in my opinion, of course) is that the single purpose of life is to appreciate it in its very many forms (including how they co-exist with each other) and then go on living, renewed and assured that we are not alone – we never were and never can be.

    Isn’t the movie reflective of how we incorporate philosophy in daily discussions?
    Essentially, extrapolating our daily lives to suit an enquiry, rather than thinking about a realm of thought and then examining whether we conform or deviate? In that sense, how can there be a literal application of the ship of Theseus paradox to the movie? The movie is almost like what train of thought, a ship of Theseus paradox can trigger off. But yes, I wish the strangeness of feeling when one realizes that he is living his life by using another’s organ was explored further. Also, how would the labourer feel if his stolen kidney was re-transplanted into him?

    Kunal, fantastic observations. The only point I disagree with you is that the movie was not a set of characterizations. I think it was nothing but that. And the whole thingamijig of its being reflective of ancient Greek philosophy is a bit overdone. So yes, if you go looking for the paradox in movie, daresay you may be disappointed. But the movie does the details very well. About people, their particular frustrations, their inadequacies, fears, strength of conviction (or not), sensory stimulations, all within the larger realm of trying to do change-the-world type activities (capturing every sight and sound of Bombay, fighting against animal testing or doing a re-donation of a stolen kidney)

    Think the film deserves multiple views – sure more layers of interpretation will be unearthed.

    • Waldete May 17, 2014 at 6:19 pm · Reply

      I completed the novel yadretsey and I agree 100% with you on the review. I thought that the end was really very disappointing and very rushed. The story had a lot of potential but in the end it seemed wasted. The story started well and the build up was great but the second half was a disappointment esp. the part about Black boy in the end. What was the conclusion of the book? The arab part in the end was so filmy. Do a whole Arab ship/boat will come to the island to grab one black boy? I would have rather seen them move to Canada and end the story there. I liked the character of the nurse too a lot. It had great potential. And, yea the premise of the story without an Indian character was surprising yet refreshing.

  12. Bharath July 28, 2013 at 9:41 am · Reply

    @Sowmya The monk was indeed dressed in shirt and trousers..probably suggesting a volte face from all the principles he held as a monk..

  13. Kunal Chandra July 30, 2013 at 9:36 pm · Reply

    Valuable and sensitive reflections on the co-existence of contradictory forces within systems and their relevance to the choices that systems that arrive at…thank you Sowmya. About the characterization bit, I was essentially drawing a distinction between narratives that are completely immersed in and driven by the psychological motivations of the characters, and narratives that use characters but look at them as a part of the systems evolving around them. In my opinion, the film does tend towards the latter. Not just because of the way the stories unfold, but, as I have mentioned earlier, but also because of the way the reflections and thoughts posited in the film find associative entry points through images and sounds, and their patterning in the narrative. Also, while the film does have its share of loose meanderings, and the ending/connection of stories at the end appears to only be a summation of the narrative graph, there is a question being posited, an attempt being made to narratively represent/mirror movement of life from one form(the explorer/donor) to other forms(the recipients)…and through their stories, in reflection, pose the same questions. And sure, when you think of the end as a mere coming together of journeys, it seems a bit tenuous, a little ordinary even…the recipients all sit ready to watch the film made by the donor/explorer…and we see the image of the insides of a cave…the rocks sparkling…the light shining into a tunnel, a cavernous unknown…and then in a moment, we see, in motion, the shadow of the explorer. I wonder about the image on the screen, the shadow in the cave, the reflection on ‘what was’…being seen in the present by the ‘what is’…and I don’t think I have it in me to belittle or question the wonder of that moment, even if it seemed ordinary at first.

  14. mayank August 16, 2013 at 8:23 pm · Reply

    @Arghya: Your article acquires a defensive posture from the time you categorise yourself as an “average Bollywood movie-goer”. Anyway, that aside, let me come to the core of your article, that is, the philosophical premise of the movie.

    You draw an analogy to a minute hand of the watch, but, organ replacement isn’t that simple, for this you need an understanding of the human biological systems to get to terms with the “continuation of the form” aspect. There is significant genetic mapping for the organ to be accepted by the body, so that should take care of the continuity of the form part. You will understand this point as you read further.

    Coming to the” complete disassembly” part. Well it is subjective to evaluate what constitutes “complete”. If criticality can be used as a test, then yes, “liver”, “heart”, “Kidney”, etc. from my perspective can be called “complete” because without them a person can’t survive. So thinking “complete” in terms of complete disassembly is rather a naïve proposition. I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that mere a replacement of “planks” amounts to “complete”, a ship after all has many other parts as well.

    All the people undergoing transplants were “Ship of Theseus” in their own right. “Continuity in form” can be evaluated from the biological perspective, while, “complete disassembly” can be put to the test of principle of criticality.

    Further, by not delving deep into each character, Anand Gandhi just highlights the existence of this paradox rather than resolve it.

    It’s good to be critical but a movie which such international acclaim should not be subject to such naïve analysis. However, your defensive posture can and does help your case.

  15. Anup October 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm · Reply

    Though, I am not a good writer or have sophisticated words to draw my line of thoughts about the movie. But I have really enjoyed the above debate and I think you all have certain take away points. By the way, out of 3, I really liked the monk eluded journey conflicting with this own principles & decisions and the example of fungus & ant brilliantly depicts the cycle of life. At last monk’s acceptance and somehow being convinced to what’s the reality of life. I am no where disappointed by This Ship of pradox.

  16. Anonymous June 15, 2014 at 9:57 pm · Reply

    A very naive analysis. Too verbose, and lacks depth.

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