‘Ship of Theseus’ - Through an editor`s eyes

Averil Nunes

Extending Plutarch`s paradox to the art of editing, taking a film apart, piece by piece, only to reassemble it to tell an eloquent visual tale, is literally what editor Sanyukta Kaza did for ‘Ship of Theseus’. We find out more

"‘Ship of Theseus’ was shot over three years, a chapter at a time, when the budget permitted, not over 54 days like the typical Bollywood film," says Sanyukta, who spent about a year editing The ;Ship of Theseus’, alongside other projects. Seven months of editing produced the over three-hour long first cut of the triptych, which features visually-impaired photographer, Aaliya Kamal (Aida Elkashef) who questions her artistic ability on regaining her sight; monk, Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) whose religious beliefs do not allow him to opt for a liver transplant; and stockbroker Navin Parnami (Sohum Shah) who detours off the money track to help an impoverished man recover his stolen kidney. The film was recut for the Toronto International Film Festival 2012; and now runs to about 140 minutes.

"The 10-or-more editors who might have worked on the film, didn`t quite connect with it," Sanyukta tell us. And she herself voiced rather strong contrarian views to its writer and director Anand Gandhi, when she first saw some raw footage of the film. To Anand`s credit— "He takes criticism very well, which is amazing for a director. I think it had come to a point, where he just needed someone to take the film apart for him," says Sanyukta.

"My cutting is not staccato. I mixed old-school long takes with new-age unpredictability. We start a scene with something absurd and dive into the core of a conversation," says Sanyukta. Around 20 scenes from the script did not make it to the final screening. "No matter how great the script or how beautiful Pankaj Kumar`s cinematography, a scene has to make sense to the visual story telling," she explains. "That`s where the editor`s objectivity and perspective comes in, because the other crew members have already lived with the film. For instance, an expensive underwater sequence (with sand symbolic of the passage of time and death) involving the dreaming monk, which would not have added much to the narrative, was not shot. Aaliya`s confrontation with her boyfriend over her insecurities, was added in retrospect."

There were structural changes too. "The original story order featured the monk (which is philosophically heavy), followed by the stockbroker and the photographer (which is much lighter); but after much debate, the order was revised to its current flow of photographer, monk and stockbroker," she reveals.

"I got lucky. New-age Indie directors like Anand, understand that the editor`s job is more than just cutting. They respect editing as a craft, which is a great change," says Sanyukta. Perhaps, the ‘Ship of Theseus’ will turn the tide in favour of greater appreciation for post-production in India, the way it seems to be doing for the independent film genre.

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