By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir”; Director: Ken Scott; Cast: Dhanush and Berenice Bejo; Rating: *
Three questions came to mind after I plodded through this film. What is Dhanush doing in this film? What is Berenice Bejo, who sparkled in “The Artist”, doing in this film? And finally, what are we doing watching this film?
Please find yourself something more useful and less slavishly post-colonial to while your time away with. There is nothing extraordinary about “The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir”. It is an utter waste of time. It lives by all the puerile stereotypes of ‘India’ as defined by the West.
The hero, Ajatshatru, is a street magician who after his beloved mother’s death, becomes an illegal migrant to the West where he hopes to find his father.
Dhanush plays Ajatshatru as a flattened out, dull and dim-wit stowaway who keeps getting into adventures that flatter his character’s IQ level. The actor is completely at sea negotiating through a script that resembles a ship determined to sink. The jokes are all on us. What can we say to an ongoing gag about Ajju getting locked into a wooden casket and sneaked into Paris?
And that is where this film should have remained.
The romance that follows is as inspiring as a visit to the dentist. The director seems to think an Indian thrown into an unfamiliar Western environment would behave like a roadside monkey performing cheap tricks for fast bucks or even faster… Well, you know.
There is not one authentic moment between Dhanush and his co-star Erin Moriarty who seems to have done the film during a moment of monetary weakness. A dying aunt who needed expensive treatment, perhaps? The couple look with crippling stiffness at one another, and that ends up being the opposite of love.
Everyone makes mistakes. Dhanush should have owned up to being awed by the international offer rather than promoting the film in India (a good one year after it flopped out in the West) as his first attempt to go global. This film is as global as Salman Khan’s circus costumes in “Bharat”.
I almost expected Dhanush to fly on a magic carpet as all ‘Bollywood’ actors are expected to do in the West. But surprise, surprise! The magic market is replaced by a hot balloon which while floating in hot air, develops a snag soon enough. Just as the film did in no time at all.
It’s a shame, just when Priyanka Chopra Jonas seemed to have freed India from the cliched Western image, Dhanush jumps right into it. He should apologise to his staunch fans in Tamil cinema for tearing down his formidable reputation as an actor to play a man who would be king, if only Kipling would stop crowning India as the land of exotica.