The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Movie Review: An extraordinarily ordinary journey
This adaptation of a successful book is a mundane adventure that lacks heart and emotion
On some level, I think it’s fair to say we almost know exactly what to expect every time an international production begins to make a film with an Indian protagonist. Of course, he’s going to be from Mumbai, and he’s going to be poor (this film takes it a step further by making him narrate his story, in all its ‘wisdom and beauty’ to a fawning audience made up of four poor Indian boys about to be incarcerated). Of course, he’s going to be given a name that’s quite hard to pronounce: Ajathashatru Lavash Patel (Dhanush), a name I dare say even Indians will have a tough time pronouncing. Of course, there are going to be references to magic, because India is such a magical land. Of course, he’s going to be raising a cow— called Mohini— that is deified. It’s a cow he dearly cares for, and yet, it’s one he doesn’t hesitate a moment for, when deciding to bid an urgent goodbye. Of course, he’s going to be shown as some sort of charming charlatan, who earns money by performing cheap levitation tricks. The film engages in a bit of charlatanry itself, when it superficially touches upon ideas like karma and almost implies that the suffering of refugees is perhaps on account of past misdeeds in this birth or another. There’s more: Paris supposedly has a strong geomagnetic field that makes romantic love particularly intense in it. Whatever you say, guys.
Cast: Dhanush, Erin Moriarty, Barkhad Abdi, Berenice Bejo
Director: Ken Scott
This film is based on a book called The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe, and having read the book, I can assure you that this mysterious title seems to have done a lot more for its popularity than what’s in it. It isn’t that I don’t take to adventures or fairy tales, but this film is hardly a good example, for lack of the sort of beauty and dreaminess such tales typically burst with. There’s little that’s dreamy about showing international refugees, and then looking to wrap it around bubbles of manufactured good fortune. In one scene, the police are chasing these hapless immigrants, and the film tries to pass it off as some sort of a Tom and Jerry chase sequence. They scamper in and out of people’s houses, and in one of them, the inmates are engaged in some BDSM activity. This is also a film that tries to milk, unsuccessfully, a female character’s confusion about her sexual identity, for comedy.
After a while, you recognise that this film’s idea of adventure is simply to have the lead character be conveniently forced from country to country, in which he experiences random events that don’t particularly come together to form a meaningful whole. He flies to Paris in a flight, and falls in love with the first girl he meets. Stuck in a cupboard, he gets unwittingly sent to England, where he learns about the plight of refugees. He’s forced into Spain in a chartered flight; he’s cramped in a suitcase that travels to Rome. He takes a hot-air balloon, and somehow ends up reaching Libya. And here, he meets an old friend. Somewhere in between, he writes a story on a shirt because he just felt like it. Also, one character helpfully indicates, “It’s like what sufi saints once did.” It’s the sort of film, where after a point, you put up your hands in resignation, a submissive viewer who can’t help but be flung from one mundane development to another. It brought back nightmares of a time in my childhood when I screamed and screamed to be released from the ferris wheel only to realise that it was better simply to give in and wait for the torment to end.
Mind you, none of this is the fault of actor Dhanush. He’s at ease with the English-speaking, and it never gets in the way of his emoting. In terms of the emotional demands of the role, it is a walk in the park for him. I also enjoyed the performances of the main supporting actors, who all put in decent shifts. Amit Trivedi’s work is likeable too, and the song, Angrezi Luv Shuv, is perhaps a bit more than this mediocre film deserved.
Fantasy adventures are meant to be an escape from the prison of practicality, but this one… this one is where you want to do the escaping from.