Sunday, July 21, 2013

Movie Review: Ship of Theseus

I went to watch 'Ship of Theseus' today, but only after browsing many reviews on the internet and looking at the trailer. At that time, it seemed very interesting, but also seemed to have the potential to turn into a very boring documentary type movie. Wouldn't have been the first time that critically acclaimed movies turn out to be, well, not that great. I decided to take a risk and go and find out for myself how this movie is, primarily because I liked the trailer a lot.

And 15 minutes into the movie, the reviews all turn out to be true and I have a small smile on  my face as I'm settled in and, for the first time, completely engrossed mentally in a movie. It's like exercise for your brain, watching this movie. No mental relaxation and such things.

ALERT : SPOILERS AHEAD : You can directly skip to the last stanza if you want to avoid them.

We start with a short telling of the riddle of the Ship of Theseus, very intriguing, and then jump into the movie.

First is the story of the foreigner (Arabic) blind photographer. She clicks photos guided by the sounds she hears, operates Photoshop with a software that says everything out loud for her, including a multi-digit number for every shade in her photos, and has a gadget which she points at objects so that the gadget can tell her what color the object is. And not just our basic colors, of course. And she does not believe that she is at any kind of a disadvantage, compared to the rest of us.

To me, the most interesting part of this story was the relationship between her and her boyfriend. It seemed too wonderful to be true. Even their fight was idealistic and wonderful. Also spotted in the movie is an ophthalmologist from the city (we used to study under him, he is a real life ophthalmologist) who conducts a cornea transplant for her. The girl gets back her vision, and apparently simultaneously loses her talent to take great shots. She has problems adjusting to her new life as a seeing person, and then ultimately finds peace on a river bed near the Himalayas. (Or maybe that is how I understood it, not too sure). Here we are treated to a perfectly framed scene of serene natural beauty, and allowed to watch it for long seconds, till it gets a little unnerving.

The second story, my favorite, is about a monk, who is very obviously Jain. He is a very modern and well educated monk, not like anyone you will meet in real life. On coming home I quizzed my Mom about the attire of the sadhus and some differences I noticed, curious to find out which sect of Jainism they were depicting, but Wikipedia later informed me that it is a fictitious religion based upon the principles of Jainism. Oh, well.

The monk is fighting a legal battle to enforce ethical regulations in experimentation over animals by pharmaceutical companies. We are shown scenes of him saving a centipede and observing rabbits being tested for no-tears shampoo. His lawyer/disciple asks him a lot of questions about his principles, and here is some of the movie's wittiest dialogue, and one of the deepest discussions on Jain philosophy I have ever come across.To see this on the silver screen seems to be a miracle in itself.

However, I imagine to people hearing these concepts for the first time, it must have all sounded very strange. The entire basic Jain philosophy is summed up in a song the monk sings in Prakrit, while we read the English translations. The depiction of a monk's life is very wonderful and quite accurate, and some of the best shots of the movie, cinematographically, come in this story. We see them begging for alms and going on their vihaar barefoot. In another memorable scene, this in the background, a young Jain monk is shown under the microscope, evidence for many of the rules of his religion - moving live microorganisms. There is also a dialogue where rebirth into various lower life forms, including microbes and insects,is described in an absolutely wonderful way. You will start looking forward to being reborn as such things, if you pay enough attention :D

 The paradox in this story comes when the monk is diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, and to be able to live, he would need a liver transplant and lots of drugs, by the very same companies he is fighting against. He refuses to take treatment, against all logical arguments presented to him, and starts a fast unto death. The monk is shown in the worst days of his disease and starvation, nearing death, complete with buzzing flies, bed ulcers, bed wetting episodes, and blackened lips. Scarily brilliant acting by Neeraj Kabi who plays the monk, he was my favourite part of the movie. In the end, the monk realises that the preparation of his soul for death in this life is not yet over, and agrees to treatment. Again, this is only my incomplete understanding of the movie.

The third story, which seems very relaxing compared to the first two, shows a kidney transplant recipient, Navin, who while taking care of his grandma in the hospital, comes across a man whose kidney was stolen. Navin, who otherwise does not have much of a social conscience, feels a need to help the poor man whose kidney was stolen one day before his own transplant surgery took place. After confirming that his own kidney isn't the stolen one, and reassuring himself, he traces the stolen kidney to Stockholm, and visits the city to find the actual recipient. In the midst of all this, we are treated to a shot of two female police constables playing badminton (I wonder why?) and one meandering sequence in a slum which will leave you with the feeling of having walked in the slum yourself for those ten or so minutes.

When Navin finally does find the recipient, he insists that the recipient must return the stolen kidney, that is the only way to set this right. The story has a predictable end with the poor victim of the scam happily settling for the loads of money he is offered and refusing to fight a legal battle to get his kidney back.

The end of the movie ties up all the three stories with a connecting thread, I won't reveal what, and leaves you with a very lovely feeling.

My first reaction to the end of this movie was wanting to watch it again. I've decided I love the movie so much I will buy an official dvd when it is available instead of downloading a pirated version. There aren't any morals or lessons to be learnt from any story in this movie, there aren't any easy answers, there isn't any entertainment, but it is still a pure joy to watch. Most of the scenes are just plain beautiful, that is the simplest way to say it. Wonderful actors, intelligent and crisp dialogue, NO songs, lovely sound effects, and lots and lots of food for thought. Many smiles as well.

This movie is extremely highly recommended watching, as long as you don't mind giving your brain some work to do.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't give up on the things that make you smile

This blog needs some serious lovin' from me. I've been gone too long, but I'm here now.

I came across this photo a few days back, and it immediately struck a cord. Such a simple thing, yet so effective. Don't give up on the things that make you smile. If you sit down and think about it, how many of us can actually do this? Have we been able to stay true to ourselves, in the face of rationality and ambition and the demands of society and everyday life?

I better stop questioning the purpose of our existence, and move on. Here's a random list of things that make me smile:

Romance Novels
Sunday Times
POSTCARDS (in caps for emphasis)
Doing well in an exam

How simple and silly and predictable is the list. And yet, how easy it is to end up going for months without doing any of these things, and letting your life become drudgery.

Today, I just want to tell you one simple thing - In the next 24 hours, do one thing that makes you smile, that makes you very happy, that you're crazy and passionate about. Pamper yourself, give yourself a treat, take a break. Make yourself happy.

And let me know how that went :D

I know this is not my usual writing style. I don't do philosophy and self-help and spiritual liberation and positive attitude. I don't. But sometimes everybody needs to.

Tell me about the things that make you smile. I'll be back in this space soon to rant and rave about my life, and to pound you with unforeseeable lectures and awful humour (It's so awful it becomes funny).

Please stick around! <3

Here's a comic to entice you to stay:

Source: This lovely blog :