We have seen several ‘Hollywood’ filmmakers in the past dabble with films set in India or with Indian protagonists. Ken Scott’s The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir is the latest addition. Based on Romain Puértolas’ French novel, The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe, the film is a global production with filmmaking and cast involving three countries – France, Belgium, India – but is largely set in India with Dhanush playing the protagonist. The film marks the South superstar’s debut in international cinema (We wouldn’t want to narrow it down to Hollywood). So, how does Dhanush score in his English film debut? And does The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir make the cut for the Indian audience? Read on to find out!
What The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir is all about:
Travelling to Paris someday is the only dream that a hard-working single mother, Siringh (Amruta Sant) regales her young son with. However when school starts, the reality that they are poor, hits Ajatashatru Lavash Patel aka Aja, who decides that he doesn’t want to be poor anymore! In a bid to break away from poverty, street-smart Aja inspired by a fake fakir, devises con-plans early in his childhood. He grows up to be a trickster cheating people with fake magic stunts along with his two cousins.
After his mother’s untimely death, Aja finds out that his father was a French magician. His only aim in life then is to travel to Paris. He somehow manages to do that and carries with him his dead mother’s ashes. While there, he even visits a furniture store that he was obsessed with as a child, after seeing its photographs in a magazine. It’s at this store that he runs into an American, Marie (Erin Moriarty) instantly falling in love with her. They decide to meet at the Eiffel Tower the following day. But destiny or ‘karma’ has other plans for Aja! He soon finds himself on one big adventure ride that takes him across Europe.
Child actor Hearty Singh playing the young Aja is an absolute natural on the screen. He lights up the frame each time with his innocence and mischief. From his overtly dramatic-outbursts to his curiosity-laden questions about his dad – he evokes laughter each time. The mother-son equation is also heartwarming.
Dhanush easily carries forward that amazing charm as the older Aja. He is simply fantastic in his role. Dhanush effortlessly breathes life into his character, enhancing the narrative that at many points threatens to be a lackluster affair. He makes you feel Aja’s highs and lows at every turn. The film is ably-supported by the rest of the cast. Erin Moriarty (Marie), Amruta Sant (Siringh), Bernicio Bejo as Nelly and Barkhad Abdi are particularly noteworthy. Dhanush shares an amazing chemistry with Erin and Bernicio.
The generous dollops of humour do make it a fun entertainer – the run-in between Nelly’s ex-lovers is hilarious – and it is also laced with several emotional moments that will tug at your heart strings. With due credit to the director, there are some very strong issues like that of juvenile delinquency, illegal immigration and displaced refugees, addressed with a light-heartedness, but not handled insensitively. The music and the direction are average, though the cinematography brilliantly captures the essence of each country beautifully, right from the Mumbai chaos to the beauty of Rome’s cobbled streets.
Like in most attempts by Hollywood filmmakers, this film too at times reeks of the limited approach the westerners often have in showcasing India. Their obsession of associating and presenting an India with cattle, Bollywood-style dance, the desi look (read maang tika, bindi, ghagra-choli and jewellery), and snake-charmers and fakirs is endless and their efforts to capture that relentless! But for the Indian audience this doesn’t work and is perhaps where it may not click with most. The film slackens pace in places. The narrative also seems to fall off edges at times, which is lifted pluckily by Dhanush.
The film is a beautiful and breezy story about love, hope, karma and dreams. It is inspiring and heartwarming that makes it an interesting watch. The cliches spoil the fun at times and there’s nothing extraordinary about the film, but Dhanush is the reason why it should be put on your must-watch list. A petty thief onscreen, he’s a show-stealer too! The brilliant actor proves his mettle again and shines in his international debut.