Banners: October Films, Phat Phish Motion Pictures
Producers: Punit Desai, Anand Surapur
Director: Anand Surapur
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor, Kamal Sidhu, Valentina Carnelutti, Mathiue Carriere
Writers: Homi Adajania (Story), Rajesh Devraj (Script & Screenplay)
Music: AR Rahman
When a film releases after being delayed indefinitely, it runs the risk of being a dated narrative. But debutant director Anand Surapur’s slice-of-life film, which released 10 years after its premiere, is as fresh as a daisy. Its novelty lies in its highbrow exhibition of art versus commerce, the moralistic value of human life versus putting it on sale, and fear of death versus gaining the courage to conquer it.
The film is the story of two polarized characters. Adi Contractor is a 29-year-old production coordinator who lives in Mumbai. He is responsible for arranging monkeys and pink elephants, among other things, for the foreign film productions he works for. Abdul Sattar Shaikh is a slumdweller who earns a meagre living by burying himself in the sand at Juhu Chowpatty. For an art installation project in Venice, Sattar is made to pose as a fakir who has attained the final state of meditation to draw European art enthusiasts. Adi acts as his guide and disciple. They con Massimo, an art connoisseur who owns a galleria. The rest of the film details their highs and lows as they journey through picturesque Italian locales.
The story, conceived by Homi Adajania, is skillfully translated on celluloid by Rajesh Devraj. They strike a masterful balance, which is neither sugar-coated nor overtly sentimental. The screenplay is cleverly woven together and keeps you engaged throughout. The bittersweet bond between the protagonists is competently portrayed and the film is peppered with light humour. Sometimes between the solemn scenes, you find yourself cracking up.
The cinematographers’ collective effort at capturing the old world charm of South Mumbai and Venice is praiseworthy. The blue waters, gondolas, frescoed architecture and waterside cafes of the floating city are a treat to the eyes. The film is an apt tribute to the country that is the birthplace of Renaissance art. It is painted in mild colours, a tender reminder that beauty lies in the ordinary.
The background score is a cherry on the top. A R Rahman’s Wako naam fakir deserves a special mention. It conveys the mood and the theme of the film. Based on Saint Kabir’s dohas, it all about spiritual and philosophical musings.
This is not your regular Bollywood film. The Fakir Of Venice is heart-warming, gratifying and thought-provoking cinema at its best. It is a gentle look at living, human life and the world. This should be your go-to film if you are in the mood for some soul-searching. The only thing that can work against it is its abstract treatment and execution, and the generous use of English dialogue.
In what was supposed to be his debut performance, Farhan Akhtar as Adi is top-notch. He slips under the skin of his character with remarkable ease. Ace performer Annu Kapoor as Sattar delivers an impressive act. He is so naïve that he thinks Italian is a blend of Hindi and Marathi, and frescos are hoardings! Both the actors have terrific comic timing. Valentina Carnelutti as Gia is decent. The rest of the cast have very little screen time and are forgettable.
Verdict: Worth a dekho!