The Fakir of Venice lacks the thrill of a con job done right

The Fakir of Venice finally releases this week, ten years after its premiere at the India Film Festival of Los Angeles in 2009. As one would have feared, it hasn’t quite aged well, the film looks and feels dated. Take for instance, the ancient models of mobiles in the hands of the various characters, the ungainly production design, or the bafflingly empty streets of Mumbai. Then there’s the presence of former VJ, Kamal Siddhu, who instantly reminded me of the other such stars of yore — Ruby Bhatia, Sophia Haque — names, a young audience today wouldn’t be familiar with. The film itself feels like a remnant of our early indie cinema, of a Kaizad Gustad or Dev Benegal.

The Fakir of Venice
  • Director: Anand Surapur
  • Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor, Kamal Siddhu
  • Run time: 98.22 minutes
  • Storyline: Adi ferries a Mumbai labourer Sattar to Venice to pose as a fakir in an art installation

The underlying theme(s) of the film are perennial ones. Two men, at odds with each other, thrown together, even made to share a double bed in a hotel on foreign shores; their varying attitudes and approaches to life; the rich-poor class divide; the East-West collision; the gullibility of the West when it comes to all things spiritual… At the centre of The Fakir of Venice, is a con job. Adi (Farhan Akhtar) has to find a baba who can be ferried to Venice to be part of an installation by an eccentric artiste. When the attempts to coax the real sadhus come undone he picks up a man off the streets, a labourer Sattar (Annu Kapoor) who has buried himself in the sands of Juhu beach to make a quick buck.

In between both humour and poignancy are thrown in, in equal measure. There are jibes taken at religion and culture, a few odd profound notes make a mark. Like a sadhu telling Adi that he doesn’t quite need to travel abroad when he can see brahmand (universe) right where he is. But all of it feels half-hearted and half-baked and doesn’t get communicated with any sense of urgency or conviction.

This movie was supposed to be Farhan Akhtar’s debut as an actor, where he plays a cheeky, urbane hustler, a production coordinator who makes a success of all kinds of weird jobs, like transporting a monkey to a remote part of Himalayas. His motto is to, “never say no”. It’s a role that fits him well and vice versa. Yet one is left wishing there was a deeper exploration of the character’s inner restlessness. Annu Kapoor is too consciously toned down, melodramatic and morbid as Sattar who has suffered in the riots and lost everything, including his wife. What more is left then to be taken away from him? Together the duo lacks any vim and vitality nor have the crucial alchemy to make the film

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 5:39:10 AM |

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