Director: Ken Scott
Cast: Dhanush, Barkhad Abdi, Erin Moriarty
You’ll find plenty of pop philosophy in Ken Scott’s The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir based on Romain Puertolas’s book The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe. That’s a long title and maybe only some paperwork stopped them from using it as it is for the film. It moves like a comic fairy tale, adopting its fantastical elements at will whenever necessary. Dhanush, in his first English outing, plays Ajatashatru “Aja” Lavash Patel, another casualty to foreign filmmakers’ limited knowledge of Indian last names, a boy of modest means who grew up in Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat with his single mother. And it is an outing for him – he goes from Mumbai to Paris, Paris to London, London to Barcelona, Barcelona to Rome. From there, he ends up in Libya before returning to Paris.
Aja is a street performer, more of a street-smart hoodwinker, who incorporates everything from tricks to magic to get the better of people, mainly the tourists. There is a lot of talk about chance, luck and fate. We get some moral lessons about the plight of immigrants and some bonkers turns the film takes to justify the “extraordinary” in its title. A subplot is straight out of a popular sentimental email forward that has probably lost its aura by now. But it is never not watchable, even if characters in Dhobi Ghat speaking English gives the film an inauthentic air about it. Aren’t we watching films that switch between languages at will these days? Why this insistence on a single language film?
Lot of funny bits in Scott’s film work. Like the part where Aja inadvertently ends up getting trapped in the eponymous wardrobe and arrives in England. The film takes its Indian connection a little too seriously and adds a song and dance which, weirdly, doesn’t seem out of place. The conversation between the British police and Aja might sound bizarre at first but the import of the conversation also rings true. They are perfectly able to understand each other but the white man refuses to acknowledge that fact. Yet with Fakir in its title, the film finds it unable to fully escape the exoticism, like the part where we see Marie (Erin Moriarty) fully dressed in Indian bride garb as Aja tells his story.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir runs a seemingly crisp 100 minutes, but it only gets more ridiculous in the name of adventure as it crawls to its predictable climax. There is an attempt to keep things light and fluffy but beyond a point, we stop caring. In some ways, Scott’s film is an unambitious version of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, without any of the stylistic flourishes and nostalgia. Here too, there is a man trying to find himself and find meaning in life. It takes him on several coincidental encounters, some of which are engaging while most of it dispensable. Dhanush’s charming presence though this film is more of a holiday for him. It wants to be a comedic tale from ‘Arabian Nights’, but it is more of a watered down version from ‘Tinkle’.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.