Ship of Theseus: An acid test for new distribution models

UTV and filmmakers Kiran Rao and Anand Gandhi are releasing the indie film in just five cities in India

It is by now a well-known fact that Mrs Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao, has championed the cause of Anand Gandhi’s acclaimed and award winning film Ship of Theseus and also, for reasons best known to herself, decided to go the distance on her own and not use her husband’s powerful brand name.

Now, the very terms ‘acclaimed’ and ‘award winning’ are enough to put a large section of the potential audience off, used as they are to time-pass feel good films with charismatic stars like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and at the other end of the spectrum, dreck (anything with Salman Khan, Chennai Express, insert your own favourite piece of garbage here).

Ship of Theseus therefore faces an uphill battle in a country where the vast majority of the audience is brain-dead (yes, we’re talking about you, look away now) and the minds that demand thinking cinema are in a tiny minority. Rao and distributors UTV are therefore releasing the film in just five cities Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. Interesting to note that despite having a strong presence in Chennai and surely having noted that small, intelligent, independent films starring nobodies are routinely thrashing big-budget star vehicles at the box office, UTV has chosen not to release there.

Be that as it may, what Rao and co have come up with is a website. Punters from cities where Ship of Theseus is not releasing are required to go online and for a change not search for Savita Bhabhi, Sherlyn Chopra or Poonam Pandey, but actually vote to bring the film to their city/town/village/hamlet. It’s simple, the more the votes, the more the chances of a film releasing in a cinema near you.

As is to be expected, Gandhi and Rao are making confident noises.

Gandhi said, “It’s an exciting new way to reach out to viewers, a democratisation of cinema, where audiences decide what they want to see. It’s great that we have been able to work together with UTV on this initiative.”

And Rao said, “We feel there are a good number of people who live outside of the big cities like Mumbai and Delhi who are also keen to watch Ship of Theseus. With our online campaign ‘Vote for the film in your city’ our effort is to gauge the interest of that audience, and hopefully based on that to take the film to them.”

If all of the above works and Ship of Theseus recoups its budget at the Indian box office then the way will be paved for long delayed festival favourites like Miss Lovely and Peddlers to hit our screens. It’s an uphill task, but at least it has begun.

Okay children, lecture over. You may now return to your hair palm activities.