Sunday, August 4, 2013

An Open Letter To Kiran Rao- "SHIP OF THESEUS"

Dear Kiran Rao,

At the outset let me congratulate you and Mr.Anand Gandhi for bringing this great movie to audience across the country . The excellent theme and beautiful direction of the movie "Ship Of Theseus" made it a delight to watch.It is indeed heartening to see how you have stayed aloof from big actors and still come out with meaningful cinema that is being appreciated by so many people. As a doctor I want to thank the team for bringing out the essential yet controversial issue of organ donation so well. The movie displayed all the shades of grey in relation to organ donation without compromising on the positive aspects of the issue. It was also heartening to see bollywood portray such a sensitive issue so beautifully without the overt dramatization usually associated with bollywood. I was impressed by the immaculately planned ending which showed how organ donation helped in propagation and prolongation of life in terms of quantity as well as quality. I know the intent behind the movie was not a pragmatic display of organ donation but a philosophical debate into meaning of soul, body parts and identity of an individual. The debate into ideas of "Ship of Theseus" is indeed intellectually stimulating but by depicting organ donation as a background story to deal with the concept your team cannot escape judgement for the portrayal of the organ donation part.

Despite meticulous planning by the director, I was quite surprised to see the medical flaws creeping in and being so glaringly obvious. I am sure the team had access to doctors who could have helped in planning the movie well without compromising the art aspect . Such glaring mistakes could and should have been avoided. For example the stock broker is shown to roam around in dirty locations without any mask after receiving a kidney transplant. Then after a cornea transplant for a leucomatous corneal opacity the patient has not even the slightest scar visible on the slit lamp even! The personal hygiene and toilet activities of ajji/nani with fracture is shown in such detail in one scene and the paramedical staff are painted in poor light.The joke about drinking with respect to the monk who has cirrhosis is indeed appreciable for making the scene light hearted but the monk's miraculous recovery(due to surgery) from a very debilitated condition is not highlighted at all. I do not take offence at the "kidney sale" drama because there are black sheep in every family/profession and your movie depicts that quite sensibly. But a sentence of praise for the medical community who strives to prolong life with newer innovations even if at the very end or as passing reference or in very fine print could have been appreciable.

 As I was walking out of the multiplex, I overheard a couple of teenagers discussing" I wanna donate my eyes" and I was glad to hear that.But in the next instant,her friend admonished this young girl saying "dekha nahi doctor log paise ke liye organ bech dalte hain. aur uparse new eye se usko khas fayda bhi nahi hua,(translation= doctors sell organs for the eye was of not much use to the photographer girl)." I know that an artist or a writer is free to portray his/her interpretation of things and the audience is free to draw conclusions. It was an erroneous assumption on part of those teenagers and Your team is not responsible for it. But, the powerful ending of this film depicting several beneficiaries of a single man's organs could bring about a tectonic shift in the thought process relating to organ donation. Cinema is a very mighty force for bringing about change in thought process. It can be a harbinger of change,usher in new ideas and surely "ship of theseus" has made an impact. Intellectuals seeing the movie today or even years later would debate the various aspects of organ donation and this movie would also serve to increase awareness about it. I thank Mr.Gandhi for making an influential movie on such a delicate topic. Also, this movie depicts even subtle nuances of it's characters quite well and gives them a real world feel wherein the audience can empathize and connect with them. It is a masterpiece and  so, I felt that  these flaws should have been avoided too.

Hoping my words are taken in the right context
Thanking you
Dr. Sonal


  1. Hi Sonal,

    Your post made some interesting points. I did wonder about the post-surgery precautions of all three patients and I'm not even a medical professional. Now hearing it from a doctor validates that notion that not all was accurate.

    The eye transplant story felt amateurish to me. For one, the transition from a seeing person to blinded-by-accident to seeing again didn't come across convincingly. The scene where she's caught in traffic and overwhelmed by noises didn't ring true. I figure a sightless person has learnt to rely on sound as their primary sense so the overload of information post surgery would come from sight, not sound.

    I'm not a big fan of the medical community, having experienced numerous instances of the arrogance/incompetency of doctors and the coldness/inefficiency of their support staff. This movie was pretty radical in showing even that realistically, without as you pointed out, overdramatizing the issue.

    I think the teenagers you overheard did carry out an incomplete, if not silly interpretation of the story. After all, it was a big concept and one that got explored on several levels. Perhaps not everyone is able to absorb that at the first go. I came out feeling inspired to more actively consider organ donation too.

    And finally, a quick comment on the post itself. Paragraphs breaks would tremendously improve this post, especially separating the 'medical inconsistencies' thought from the 'showing medical fraternity in less flattering light' idea. Also the font hampers legibility so you might want to consider a more standard one.

    Thanks for directing me to this!

    1. Thank you very much @ideasmithy for your thoughtful and thorough comments.
      The eye transplant story was not "blinded by accident" but she mentions "viral infection" which indeed is a cause for corneal blindness. But her recovery is too sudden,abrupt and totally trouble free. Also,when she keeps her camera in the purse (near lake,mountains) it could be assumed that she has started enjoying things directly instead of capturing everything~ it is a matter of perception there.
      The movie makers have kept organ donation as their main theme and so should have taken more medical opinion before finalizing screenplay.
      Thanks again for your active analysis of the blogpost.