The Fakir of Venice movie review: Nothing happens very slowly in this excruciating Farhan Akhtar film
The Fakir of Venice
Director: Anand Surapur
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor, Kamal Sidhu
The Fakir of Venice has history, and not the kind films like to brag about. From the time it was born as a film to when rolled into a multiplex near you this Friday, 14 years have elapsed. Back in 2005, we were still listening to music on iPods, able to breathe on Delhi roads and knew Donald Trump as That guy on The Apprentice.
Just like all those nuggets of information, The Fakir of Venice is out of sync with today. That, however, is not its biggest fault – it is the film’s inability to forge any kind of bond with viewers. Its tales of hard luck, its charming yet dissolute protagonist, its ambitious scope – you are strangely untouched by everything that happens on screen. The film has ambition, what it absolutely lacks is ability to realise it.
Watch the trailer for The Fakir of Venice:
The Fakir of Venice was supposed to be Farhan Akhtar’s debut – the director-producer made his debut with Rock On – and he is sparkling as Adi in the film. A Mumbai guy who gets by with his smarts and charm, he wants to pursue film studies in the US and is not above lying to collect the funds. In answer to an Italian woman who says she always wanted to visit India, he says, “I always wanted to leave.”
He works as a fixer for film crews and art galleries, and brags about never saying no. He gets an unusual request from an Italian curator to find a fakir for an art installation. As he comes back empty-handed from Varanasi – perhaps the only shiny few minutes in the film, he finds Annu Kapoor’s Sattar at Juhu beach. To fill his belly, the construction worker used to spend hours buried in sand with only his folded hands protruding out.
Just like the gesture of supplication he used to practice, his story is one of utter poverty and heartbreak. Adi is not interested, for him Sattar is a means to an end – to earn a few Euros and perhaps get laid as the self-styled disciple of the Indian guru. They both land in Venice and Sattar is presented by Adi as a mendicant who comes from a “higher dimension”. Sattar plays out his death everyday -- what he terms dafan hona – as Adi explains his actions to people who visit the gallery. “People do strange things,” he explains to a woman.
Sattar is a foil to Adi in so many ways – the class divide is underlined as Sattar insists on sitting on the floor as Adi takes the bed – but it is his simplicity and innocence that the film harps on. It is a pity then that it is all lost in insipid filmmaking.
It is when this unlikely duo reaches Venice that the film takes a dive, pun intended. It is hard to make one of the most beautiful places in the world look jaundiced but the poorly shot scenes manage just that.
Venice is not the only victim of The Fakir of Venice, the film’s able cast – Farhan, Annu and the effervescent Kamal Sidhu – has to manage with an uneven and lethargic script and a narrative that lacks depth. Its 98-minute runtime feels much longer as the film throws philosophical ideas at you only to forget about them next instant. It flirts with the idea of belonging, our refusal to accept our own mortality and the connection between art and life.
Even the con which is being played by the various characters – Adi conning Sattar, both of them playing the audience and gallery curator Massimo (Mathieu Carriere) tricking them all – is never really explored. Massimo talks about the art of weaving stories out of thin air, giving them a life of their own. Alas, The Fakir of Venice fails in achieving that silken promise.
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