Director Anand Gandhi, who captivated the critics last year with his first feature film, the multiple award-winning Ship of Theseus, made space in his busy agenda last Thursday to offer an exclusive event at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
Organized by the student group South Asian Film Society, the event was hosted by Professor Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at SOAS, and also included the intervention of Peter Flügel, Chair of the Centre of Jaina Studies at the same university.
After a short introduction by Rachel Dwyer, where she outlined Gandhi’s diverse career, which even includes his work as dialogues writer in several soap operas at the age of 19, the director had the opportunity to talk about his career, the making of Ship of Theseus and the repercussions of its critical success in his current work.
Gandhi stressed the importance of cinema during his childhood. Films were an important source of education for him, as they taught him about “relationships”. As a kid he was interested in many different fields, and cinema proved to be the right place to devote his career.
Ship of Theseus has undoubtedly been a turning point in his career. The film, premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, was critically acclaimed and was screened in numerous film festivals around the world. As a result of this success, the director is engaged in exciting new projects, which include a documentary about the shift in Delhi politics, several films and some TV shows.
One of the aspects that Gandhi dealt with was the situation of the cinema industry in India and the difficulties to develop non-commercial films. The director criticized the general assumption that Indians are not interested in this kind of films, and put Ship of Theseus as an example, as the film did well in cinemas considering its small budget.
The director also shared some clips from the film with the audience, as well as his views on the significance of those extracts in the overall film.
The final discussion included the intervention of Peter Flügel and widely focused of the character of Maitreya and the limited representation of Jainism in films. As Gandhi himself pointed out, the word “jain” is not used in the film, but Maitreya’s views and ideas agree with Jainism’s general precepts. In fact, the film got a warm reception from the Jain community, including the Jain Philosophy Department of the University of Mumbai.
The last part of the event was devoted to the questions from the audience, who had the opportunity to share its views with the director as well as solve its doubts about the film.
One of the questions that drew more interest was the election of the title of the film, which alludes to the Theseus’ paradox, most notably recorded by Greek philosopher Plutarch. The paradox raises the question of whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. As Gandhi pointed out, when applied to people the paradox raises questions about identity and the self, as “human beings constantly go through changes”.
It was a pleasure to attend this event and have the opportunity to hear the views of this talented filmmaker. We are looking forward to Anand Gandhi’s upcoming projects.