A school dropout, Anand Gandhi went on to learn a number of subjects including philosophy, which, in a way lead him to make ‘Ship of Theseus’

Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus, after travelling to a number of international and national film festivals, will release in select cities across the country, including Hyderabad, next week. Produced by Sohum Shah, the film stars Adia Al-Khashef, Neeraj Kabi and Sohum Shah and explores “questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death through the stories of an experimental photographer, an ailing monk and an enterprising stockbroker.” With a title and a theme that refers to Theseus’ paradox in the philosophical idiom, Anand Gandhi has managed to win over audience at film festivals. Ship of Theseus releases on July 19, distributed by UTV and presented by Kiran Rao.

Excerpts from an interview with the director ahead of the film’s release.

‘Ship of Theseus’ received positive reviews at the Mumbai International Film Festival and several international film festivals. Has it been a long wait to release it in India? Did you consider releasing it on your own before Kiran Rao came on board?

Sohum and I did think about how to go about releasing the film. We did not want to go through the rigmarole of screening the film to distributors and trying to make them understand that there is an audience for a film like this. To save us the trouble, Sohum even thought of releasing t himself. In November 2012, Kiran watched the film and in January, she said she would like to present it.

Her stepping into the project opened up newer vistas…

Certainly, she had contacts in UTV and that helped us. She also understood our film well. She herself having worked on Peepli Live and Dhobhi Ghat helped, because though they were not the same idiom as SOT, they were in the same space.

UTV decided to release SOT in July so that there is ample time to build word of mouth talk for the film. We were keen on not doing paid television commercials or hoardings.

The title and the storyline draw a fair amount from philosophy and psychology, subjects that may be easier to express with the written word. How did you go about working on the idea for a visual medium?

I feared that it would become perhaps didactic or prescriptive, like a mouthpiece for what the author is trying to say. What is explored in the film, philosophically, is very relevant to each one of us at a deeper level. I had to translate this into the narrative. I think cinema is a powerful tool and there is potential to explore philosophical and psychological ideas.

Did your interest in philosophy and psychology stem from academics?

I would like to think of myself as an academic though I dropped out of school. I was full of curiosity in my school days and unfortunately, school curriculum had nothing much to offer me. I felt most of what was taught to us was obsolete. I put myself through rigorous education. I took up a number of small courses, attended seminars and workshops that were enlightening. I did a one-year course in philosophy.

Did you get enough support at home when you dropped out of school?

Yes, my mom has always backed me. Sometimes I think maybe she has been too supportive of me (laughs).

It’s tough to think that at one point you worked in television and were associated with soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

I was 19. I did a lot of things at that time including television and theatre. I feel embarrassed when my work experience with television keeps cropping up at odd places.

Did you feel the need to go to a film school?

When I was young, I dreamt of becoming a magician, an artist, a philosopher and a writer. Cinema is one medium through which I think I can play all these roles. When I was 16, I seriously thought I should enrol myself in a film school. Later, as I was eager to do so many things, I learnt the different crafts that go into filmmaking.

Were you conscious of the commercial viability of a project like ‘Ship of Theseus’?

I believe the film is commercially viable and we will prove that. Mainstream Bollywood has never excited me. There is a huge audience, like me, that has not been addressed to by Bollywood. And this audience has turned its attention to European films and American television.

What’s next?

Sohum and I have formed our banner called Recyclewale Films. We’ve produced a film called Tumbaad directed by Rahi Barve. The film is in post-production. I am working on my next film as a director and will be producing two documentaries.

We have a good team and are excited about our new projects.