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There’s a general consensus in India that an intellectual Bengali is perhaps the most insufferable, pretentious creature you’ll ever encounter. Well, I’ve got news for you. Bengalis are not alone.

ship-of-theseus-posterCelebrating the success of his film Ship of Theseus, director Anand Gandhi wrote a long public post on Facebook, to rouse the troops etc. because the film (originally released in only five cities) is now going to be shown at 17 more places. This is wonderful news for any indie film, especially in a country like India where (bad) Bollywood is pretty much all we see. Here are a few lines from Gandhi’s address to the nation:

The need for a robust cultural environment has been vocalised at the box office. It’s loud and clear, and has forced a valid response – an expansion of the film’s release to more cities. The wall of presumption has been dented, now it needs to come down. Let’s not accept anything lesser. …

We need to put in our best to keep this dialogue alive. This is about the survival and growth of all that is relevant to us, culturally.

We are more than just a film now. We don’t know if this is going to be seen, in retrospect, as a small step or a giant leap. We do know that this would be seen as an opportunity for a movement – either taken or missed.

We need to come together to evolve a new ecosystem for profound, complex, meaningful, relevant, rigorous, experimenting, inquiring and beautiful cinema to exist and be accessible to each one of us – a privilege we don’t have yet.

That’s more poncy than anything I’ve heard a Bengali say in recent times, and I’ve been to a discussion where Bengali poets were discussing T.S. Eliot.

Never mind the fact that Ship of Theseus is a decent but profoundly imperfect film and let’s ignore pedantic details like how walls can’t really be dented. (Chipped, yes. Cracked, possibly. Dented, no.) Let’s just focus on the pomposity and delusion that reeks from every single word up there. Forget “the wall of presumption”, there’s an entire fortress made of the stuff in Gandhi’s post. Gandhi, in an attempt to rally the troops or cause the largest number of eye-rolls in human history, completely ignores a rather robust tradition of independent cinema to declare Ship of Theseus “more than just a film” and a “movement”. Because, hell, no one in India has attempted to make and screen good cinema until Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus set sail. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal, Rituparno Ghosh, Q, Dibakar Banerjee blah blah blah… whatever. They were just people who made films; they didn’t create movements. How could they? There was no ecosystem for “profound, complex, meaningful, relevant, rigorous, experimenting, inquiring and beautiful” cinema until Gandhi thought of attaching all those adjectives to the art form.

Anyway, to support this movement titled Ship of Theseus, Gandhi has a few suggestions for the film’s fans. One of them is to link to his post in one’s blog, which I’ve ended up doing and with some regret. I like the idea of Indian indie films getting attention and if it takes pretentious posts to achieve this, so be it. There must be people who will find Gandhi’s words moving and inspiring, rather than simply annoying. But whatever its intention, Gandhi’s post is also an eloquent example of how seriously and grandiosely indie cinema in this country takes itself. No wonder so many in the country think Indian non-commercial cinema is simply a fancy way of saying “insufferable”.

Another suggestion in Gandhi’s message is to “Change your twitter handle to Ship of <your name>”. But in the spirit of complex, meaningful, relevant, rigorous experimenting, a few friends and I have decided to take the project a little further, in the interests of the survival and growth of culture that Gandhi urged us to foster in his post. Henceforth, for at least the next few minutes, we will be known as:

@BargeOfBijal

@LifebuoyOfLeo

@ArkOfAnonandon

@CanoeOfChitra

Being the generous sort, I also have suggestions for famous Bollywood actors, should they want to be part of Gandhi’s movement: 

@SchoonerOfShahRukh

@DinghyOfDeepika

@CatamaranOfKatrina

@RaftOfHrithik

@SloopOfSalman

@GondolaOfGovinda

@SampanOfSonakshi

And to go with the ship/sailing/sea theme, allow me to share with you the coolest interactive graphic I’ve seen in a while. I don’t know what it’s called and I’m aware that it’s a killer whale, but I’d still like to call it Don’t Free Willy. It’s just fabulous, guaranteed to improve your mood, shows how much intelligence is required to create something that’s truly fun and doesn’t suffer from any delusions about its importance. Bless.

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3 thoughts on “Not Rowing My Boat

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