‘Ship Of Theseus’ In The Art V/s Box Office Conflict

Anand Gandhi’s ‘Ship Of Theseus’ is one film, which the industry insiders recommend to watch. This isn’t the first time that stalwarts from the industry have praised a film. But are Indian audiences matured enough for niche and offbeat content, well not quite really.
Anand Gandhi’s ‘Ship Of Theseus’ is one film, which the industry insiders recommend to watch. This isn’t the first time that stalwarts from the industry have praised a film. But are Indian audiences matured enough for niche and offbeat content, well not quite really.

MUMBAI: We are celebrating the 100 glorious years of Indian cinema. But in the recent trend of the ‘100 crore’ club, how many films with great content can we boast of? Sadly, not many. The list remains confined to mass entertainers. But what about Art? With films like ‘Bombay Talkies’, ‘Lootera’ getting thumbs up from critics but slammed by audiences, Indian audiences, don’t think are matured to receive a film like ‘Ship Of Theseus’.

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A lot of credit has to be given to the power of Twitter and Social Media for bringing a festival bound film like ‘Ship Of Theseus’ to life amongst Indian audiences. A campaign to engage audiences to release the film in their city may work amongst a few sets of ‘classy’ audiences but not among the aam junta comprising the autowallahs or sabziwallahs. For them a movie outing means ‘Entertainment’ (in true Vidya Balan Style). Kiran Rao, Aamir Khan and UTV might have thought smart to release the film majorly in metros, but guess they aren’t bothered about making money at the box office (read reaching the elite club). For them art is more important than numbers, it seems.

Sadly our audiences have been choosy about the films they watch and even a film as aesthetic and strong as ‘Lootera’ gets a whip from the ordinary movie audiences. This shows that our audiences haven’t matured and do not wish to.

Businessofcinema.com spoke to Milap Zaveri, writer of commercial potboilers like ‘Shootout At Wadala’, ‘Masti’ and the upcoming ‘Grand Masti’ and he says, “Our audiences are too huge and scattered. Films like ‘Ship Of Theseus’ may get praise from a handful of critics and cinema buffs over Twitter, but Twitter is detached from reality. These films are restricted to festival circuits and niche audiences. With films like these getting released, only one or two get acclaimed and noticed. The masses of India may not understand. For them entertainment is when there is dialogue, scenes eliciting claps, people whistling. They spend close to Rs 250 on a single ticket and if with family spend close to Rs 1000 and all they want is ‘Paisa Vasool’.”

He acknowledges that a star presence makes a huge difference and also says that Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao, Ekta Kapoor have been smart backing ‘Ship Of Theseus’ and ‘Lootera’ respectively, which otherwise wouldn’t have seen a release.

So what is it that we need to do to get closer to offbeat content? Will we continue to see logic defied content in our movies and arty stuff goes for a toss? Or are we headed for a sea change in the hundred years of cinema that we have seen?

Milap confidently says, “Commercial movies will always rule. Niche content overtaking commercial cinema will never happen. But even experimental cinema and offbeat content, if made with a striking balance (giving the example of ‘Kahaani’) will have commercial value.”

While UTV and Kiran Rao have gone ahead with a well placed Voting campaign, thanks to inspiration from Aamir Khan himself, it needs to be seen if the audiences who have opted for to watch ‘Ship Of Theseus’ embrace it with full heart. What also needs to be seen is the road ahead for Indian cinema.

Whether we are able to strike a fine balance between fine content and commercialism?