Brio Films, MI Capital, Red Car Films, Sony Pictures (France) and others present “The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir”
Produced by: Luc Bossi, Jon Goldman, Saurabh Gupta, Aditi Anand and Gulzar Chahal
Directed by: Ken Scott
Written by: Romain Puértolas, Luc Bossi, Ken Scott and Jon Goldman from the novel by Romain Puértolas
Music: Nicolas Errera, Amit Trivedi
Starring: Dhanush, Bérénice Bejo, Erin Moriarty, Barkhad Abdi , Gérard Jugnot, Ben Miller, Abel Jafri, Kay Greidanus, Amruta Sant and others
MUMBAI—Ajatshatru Lavash Patel (Dhanush) – now, who has a name like that? – lives with his single mother (Amruta Sant) in a lower-class locale in Mumbai. She has always told him from childhood that he never had a father and Aja (as he is known) never believed her. He “earns’ by doing tricks and conning and cheating people.
After his mother’s death, Aja discovers love letters written by his father to her – he was a Frenchman who wanted her to come to Paris. Aja manages to go to France with a fake passport and currency and manages to con a pretty girl named Marie (Erin Moriarty) at a department store. Yet he is also charmed by her, and so they plan to meet the next day at the Eiffel Tower, which plays a key part in his father’s letters. Marie has been someone who left her suitor at the altar as she changed her mind at the last moment!
Aja sleeps inside a wardrobe in the store and the same wardrobe is taken for delivery – with him inside, all the way to England! He meets illegal immigrants led by Wiraj (Barkhad Abdi) on the way and a chain of misadventures follow. The net result is his making a fortune but then altruistically donating it later to fellow refugees, which he also has become now. He has enough money only to return to Paris and then go back home. He finds Marie by chance in the same store he visited earlier (but with her boyfriend) Why he goes to the same store is something that would be a spoiler if told to potential watchers.
When Aja finally returns home, he realizes that what he has been told from childhood is not true – that he is not poor, because poverty is not always about money. And then a great surprise awaits him.
The film is not a total loss but emerges rather pointless. He never finds his father, his mother can never meet her husband, and there is no great redemption or culmination. The filmmakers and writers, however, do not aim for it either, but only want to offer light entertainment.
The film packs in absurdities and illogic galore without the slightest apology, which is fine. What is, however, emphatically not fine is that critics who would look down on such a Hindi film go ga-ga over it, as this reviewer observed at the press screening. Just name an Indian director instead of Ken Scott in the credits, and the media will rip this film to shreds!. But no, now this film is written and directed by someone from the West!!
Having said that, the style that Scott adopts is a quaint rather than quirky mix of present and vintage Hollywood (the cops singing with Aja) along with Hindi cinema’s tricks-of-the-trade: Check out the well-mounted Dhanush dance number “Madaari” and its intention, besides being the obligatory dance for him, the emotional love-letter, the Nelly love track, the mother-son bond dominating throughout, the predictable cabbie in a foreign place, the distribution of big money for a noble cause and, of course, the slew of incredible coincidences.
Make no mistake, in its own way, “The Extraordinary Journey…” is reasonably entertaining, especially in the first half, but this film proves yet again that our kind of cinema can never be made by foreigners. After Majid Majidi’s “Beyond The Clouds” (2018) and Chuck Russell’s “Junglee” earlier this year, this completes a trilogy of movies that proves that come light, serious or action-heavy, it is impossible to master our formula! Yes, non-demanding Indian and global audiences might take to this film.
Technically sound, and embossed with Amit Trivedi’s spicy “Madaari” song, the film also has Dhanush, charmingly simple as always. From the supporting cast, Abdi and Gerald Jugnot as the cabbie make a mark. The two foreign heroines are delightful, especially Bérénice Bejo as Nelly, the actress who likes and helps Aja, but our vote would go overwhelmingly to the sheer grace, spunk and smoothness of Amruta Sant’s performance as Aja’s doughty mother.