What an interesting movie! It feels like it must mean something when you first watch it, and then you decide it means nothing, and then you decide it means everything. It’s an exciting journey.
Normally I say “whole plot”, but this film doesn’t really have a plot. In this universe, almost immortal demons run a spaceship where they process dead souls to be taken into the afterlife and reincarnation. Vikrant Massay is one of the first astronaut/demons running one of the ships. His supervisor is making him take on an assistant, Shweta Tripathi. He disapproves of her, especially when she hesitates with her first interaction with a dead soul, but is impressed when she reveals her healing powers. Shweta forces Vikrant to call up his old girlfriend from training, Konkona Sen Sharma, and they have a brief call admitting that they miss each other. There is a meteor shower and the ship is damaged. In the aftermath, Shweta has to process someone alone and is scared by him, and her healing powers go away in the shock. Vikrant covers for her, having gotten used to her presence. Her healing powers come back and she remains on the ship. But Vikrant is now called back, because he has had more than ten “Repeats”, that is, people who died and were reincarnated and died again on his watch. Shweta alone on the spaceship finds a picture he drew of her and a watch he left as a present (something she tried to take on her first day from a dead soul and he told her it was wrong). She welcomes her new assistant to the station.
That’s it. Putting it in every day terms, we have a bureaucrat who has worked alone for a long time forced to work with a new young assistant. Shortly after she arrives, she is in danger of losing her job, and he protects her because he has grown used to her. Surprisingly, it is he who ends up leaving instead and she welcomes someone new to work with her. It just happens to take place on a Reincarnation Spaceship, between to almost immortal Rakshasas.
My first reaction was to enjoy the subtle humor of it, the wedding party that died in a bus trip and mill about playing music, the little perfectly dull joked between Vikrant and his remote supervisor Nandu Madhav. And the cleverness of the little tossed off things like Shweta being a model for a “remove your fangs” before/after dentistry ad. And then I started waiting for something to happen, for Vikrant to fall in love with Shweta, for one of the dead people to reveal a mystery, for the whole bureaucratic structure to turn out to be some kind of wild conspiracy. It never did, and the movie just sort of ended, and I started to feel angry at the con job. It’s just a slice of life boring film! Why give it all the imaginative visuals and stuff if you aren’t going to DO anything with it????
I slept on it and I was still angry. And then after sitting with the film a few days, I think I have come around to seeing that it really does have something to say. And part of that is NOT saying it. Your life doesn’t make sense in one blinding moment. The meaning of life comes from sitting with all the little moments until you figure out that that’s all that life is, and it is up to you to decide to make it matter it you.
Late in the film we have the closest we ever come to some kind of a “lesson”. Shweta is stressed because her healing power has gone, and they have a last minute arrival, an elderly couple who committed suicide together. They process them, and Vikrant sends the old man in through the reincarnation door first, and he tells his wife not to worry, he will wait for her. Then Vikrant sends her through and takes Shweta over to watch the little blips on the computer screen as the two souls fly off. And he shows her how they do find each other, the two of them coming together again. He says they always find each other.
It seems to be a simple statement about love lasting past life. But I think it is going for something deeper. If you believe in reincarnation, then nothing that happens in this life matters all that much. Vikrant sees the same souls come through twice over, nothing has changed for him and really nothing has changed for them, they lived and died again, that is all. If you lose someone when you die, you will find them again. Arrive at the soul spaceship, hand over your belongings, be healed, and then go off to start again. This is what Vikrant has been doing for decades and it has brought him a strange disconnected calm. He writes letters every night to his old girlfriend, but doesn’t bother to send them. He chats with Nandu Madhav. He has coffee and gets dressed in the morning, draws his little pictures in his room at night. He is just marking time really, and there is plenty of time, even if there is nothing else. That’s why the film feels so strangely timeless, some of the equipment looking like the 1970s, some like the 2000s. It’s possible Vikrant exists outside of time, that his spaceship exists in the past and present simultaneously.
If you believe in reincarnation, you can make the choice to decide that since death does not matter, life does not matter either. That is where Vikrant has come on his journey, floating through space, sending people off to be reborn. That is the calm detachment he is trying to give to Shweta, the new arrival. And he does give it to her, she is easily upset when we first meet her, and by the end she is calm and at peace as he was. But she gives him the ability to connect again. She forces him to talk to Konkona face to face and we immediately see the emotions stirred between them. She makes him care about her, want her to succeed at this job. He doesn’t have to, he is not driven by irresistible love for her, or some strange self-interest, or any outside danger. It is a choice, he has a person and a situation in front of him, and he chooses to care.
This movie is saying that it is a choice we make, moment by moment, whether we will connect and feel, or float through space, isolated and peaceful. Neither is necessarily wrong, or right, says this film. But what you need to decide for yourself is, if none of this matters, if life and death are no longer mysteries, if your own life span is hideously long (there is mention of Nandu’s 137th wedding anniversary), will you still choose to engage? Will you still choose to be hurt? Will you still choose to live, even if there is no death?