‘A piece of art in progress’
Indian film director Pankaj Kumar won several major awards for his debut work, “Ship of Theseus.”

‘A piece of art in progress’

Vidhi’s Bollywood Film Club goes indie with screening of ‘Ship of Theseus’ at Epsilon Spires

BRATTLEBORO — On Friday, Aug. 27, starting at 7 p.m., the Backlot Cinema at Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St., will be site of a free outdoor event featuring a screening of the Indian film Ship of Theseus.

The evening will be hosted by Vidhi Salla of the international radio show Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox and includes a Zoom interview with the cinematographer of the film, Pankaj Kumar; Indian cuisine catered by Shital's Indian Vegetarian Food, of West Dover; and an Indian handicraft bazaar, part of Salla's new venture, Vidhiism.

Jamie Mohr, creative director of Epsilon Spires, and Salla started Vidhi's Bollywood Film Club last fall.

“The first film that we remotely collaborated on for the Backlot Cinema was Satyajit Ray's The Chess Players (1977). I recorded the introduction at my Mumbai home and it was played on the big screen before the film,” Vidhi said in a news release. “I was thrilled to find out later that the show was sold out.”

Collaborations continued during the pandemic, as Epsilon Spires and Salla hosted film screenings online and facilitated post-film discussions over Zoom.

“It was really instrumental in bringing people from different continents together virtually during a time of social distancing,” said Salla. “I'm excited that I will finally be present in person at Epsilon Spires to host a movie event, something that Jamie and I had been planning for more than a year.”

'So simple, yet so profound'

Ship of Theseus (2 hours, 29 minutes), directed by Anand Gandhi, is an independent film, meaning that it breaks away from commercial Indian cinema, universally known as Bollywood.

In Bollywood films, a lot of emphasis is placed on the fame and notoriety of the cast, massive budgets, fancy settings, and having plenty of singing and dancing. “Ship of Theseus has none of that,” Salla said.

The title of the film alludes to the paradox of Theseus, a thought experiment that ponders whether a ship that has had all components replaced still remains the same ship.

As described in the news release, the film explores ideas of identity, justice, beauty, and death through three contemporary stories that become intertwined in a beautiful and thought-provoking climax.

“While watching the film, audiences may ask themselves, 'What would I have done in that situation?'” Salla said.

“What I love most about the film is that it's so simple, yet so profound,” she added. “The writing is exceptional, and every story and its central theme unfold beautifully, like watching a piece of art in progress.”

“It was a small film that received a big response in India, especially among critics and film aficionados,” Salla noted. “One Bollywood filmmaker was even quoted as saying, 'Ship of Theseus gave me serious doubts about myself as a filmmaker.'”

Ship of Theseus was released in 2012, in a decade when Indian cinema went through a seismic shift in the quality and type of content in films.

Salla said the film is admired for its cinematography.

Cinematographer Pankaj Kumar, a personal friend of Vidhi's, made his debut with Ship of Theseus, winning three awards in India as well as internationally for the film.

Limited seating for the film is outdoors on a first-come-first-served basis; reservations are encouraged. Guests are encouraged to come prepared to picnic, so blankets, cushions, or folding chairs are suggested.

Restrooms are available. In the case of rain, the event will be moved indoors to the Sanctuary, with socially distanced seating and COVID-19 precautions in place.

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