Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir 

Slumdog Chronicles

What’s with this western fascination with Indian fakirs, slums, dhobi ghat, cows? Ken Scott’s The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, stays in India for a very short while, but a lot of clichés creep in. It sounds strange because slum characters and juvenile delinquents in a remand home speak English, but realism is obviously not important to this fanciful tale.
The protagonist with the odd name of Ajatshatru ‘Aja’ Lavash Patel (Dhanush) is a street magician and conman, who hopes to go to Paris and look for his father. He manages a passport, a ticket and a fake Euro note, but nobody bothers about a visa, when Schengen officials give even legit business travelers a tough time.  He lands in Paris, would have got conned by a glib cabbie, if he were less sharp and goes to a “Swiss furniture store” he dreamt of --the Romain Puertolas book in which the film is based was called on  The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe—which is how Aja’s journey begins.
After flirting with a pretty American, Marie (Erin Moriarty), he hides in a wardrobe in the store, which is thrown into a truck bound for England, with illegal refugees in it. The British cop, literally makes a song-and-dance of capturing the aliens and sends them off to Spain.
Aja hides in the massive suitcase of an actress, Nelly (Berenice Bejo), lands in Rome, has some adventures there, does a Bollywood-style dance in a night club, gets help refugees in Libya, takes a balloon ride, before landing back in the “small, small area of Worli” where his cow called Mohini is still waiting for him.
Dhanush is all charm and sincerity, but the film remains entirely without drama or humour (the gay jokes fall flat).  One can’t help thinking that only Bollywood can pull of this level of silliness. If Karan Johar had produced this film and cast Ranveer Singh, it might even have been entertaining-- not so ho hum.

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