Finding Fanny—A Review

Sometimes, a good film induces me to write a blog. Sometimes, a real stinker of a trashy one also serves the same purpose. Sometimes, you happen to get a dose of both around the same time, and then inevitably, a comparison happens. I think that quite sums up the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of this blog.

So over yesterday and today I watched ‘Finding Fanny’ and ‘Bobby Jasoos’.  Since a-la ‘the’ Bonaparte I believe in the deliverance of bad news before good news, I will follow that routine for the comparison.  For clarity’s sake, the blog would have two parts to it, considering also, my waxing eloquent in my favourite act of reviewing films. This blog would be about ‘Finding Fanny’, and the next about the other film I watched.

Finding Fanny is the third venture of model-turned-writer/filmmaker Homi Adajania.  Some of my country-folk reading this may remember him from his modelling days, some may not—he was part of the industry at a time when the industry was still tentative on its foothold and he was never exactly a regular. However, he is known at large by the contemporary world as a writer and a film maker with no traces of his timorous modelling past on him whatsoever.

Homi’s first film was ‘Being Cyrus’, an experimental venture with the darkest of the dark comedy being followed by ‘Cocktail’, a mainstream Bollywood commercial, the two films being separated by a long hiatus of close to six years. I had not watched the second film, but I HAD watched the first, and despite the swirling disturbance in my mind post the viewing which I can recollect till this day, Homi had gone up on my personal wall of fame as a debutant director with immense power and potential to deliver a lot more.  I think that quite explains my expectations from ‘Finding Fanny’, not to mention the quirkiness of the trailer that came before the release. The film promised an oddity of a storyline with a hint of a romance, some of my most- loved old veterans of actors balanced with some refreshingly fresh faces, and a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop of Goa. What more could a viewer possibly want?

After the two hours of screening were over, I could almost actually taste in my mouth the bitterness of the disappointment I felt. No one can possibly understand the low of that letdown that follows from a substandard work of a specially favourite craftsman/artist—and to me, ‘Finding Fanny’ was more than just a supremely bad film—it was literally a personal affront—from Adajania for letting me down so dismally.

My unshaken (till date, that is) belief has always remained that the script forms the lynchpin of a film. This film falls flat on its face in that department. The script was apparently developed from one of Adajania’s own written stories with his co-writer Kersi Khambatta, and watching the film, I could tentatively comprehend why reading the story could still possibly have had some kind of an impact. But as any writer-filmmaker would know, one of the foremost challenges of adapting written material—however brilliant—for visual purpose, is of finding the right PACE for the visual narrative, and the writers’ duo went completely underwater trying to salvage that pace of the written story while translating it into film. The narrative moves forward in staccato bursts; languishing camera movements being aided by voiceovers from the heroine which comprises of lines that would possibly have made good reading, but end up as pathetic props for the visuals, resulting in abysmally poor viewing.  Deepika Padukone’s voice completely devoid of any intonation whatsoever does not help the case. Whether the fault lay at her door, or the director’s, only the Lord could tell.

Next, the story in itself.  It revolves around a ragtag crew of five individuals in a Goan village with a vague name and a vaguer location. One, Ferdie or Ferdinand, a decrepit invalid—defunct postman by profession and insistent choir boy by choice—has a love lost several years ago in the crests and troughs of life, who he is suddenly reminded of as the undelivered marriage proposal he had written to Stephanie ‘Fanny’ Fernandes four decades ago, lands miraculously at his doorstep one night. The narrative involves the altruistic Angelina (Angie) deciding to help Ferdie go on a voyage with a mission of—no surprises—finding Fanny. That the exact objective of the journey remains in the dark—whether it would be to deliver the hopelessly delayed erstwhile proposal to Fanny verbatim (utopia realized!) or convey the intention of delivering such, and know if Fanny would reciprocate Ferdie’s sentiments after all these days (?)—seems of little concern.

Angie with her altruistic albeit scheming  brain initiates an effort to draw the following innocuous victims within her net to aid this glorified philanthropic quest—sullen and acerbic  Savio who held a candle to her once and now, all the while blaming and cursing her for marrying his best friend Gabo instead of him; her mother-in-law Rosalina, mother to the now deceased Gabo who drew his last breath while eating a fistful of his wedding cake and choking on the plastic figurine on it (instead of marzipan, put in as a result of the parsimonious considerations of Rosalina—as revealed dramatically by Angie in her pre-coital overtures to Savio, at pains to prove her blessed virginity despite being married ‘for fifteen minutes’); Don Pedro, self-proclaimed-famed-globetrotter-cum-polyglot obsessed with the bodily abundance of Rosalina and insisting on treating her as his latest muse; the obviously love-struck Ferdie and last but not the least, Rosalina’s cat Nereus.  The motley crowd set out in Don Pedro’s car driven by Savio (who apparently is the only one who knows how to drive) looking for Fanny in Goa and even managing to cross into the neighbouring state. After several false trails, Ferdie and team stumble across a lookalike of the young Fanny, who is revealed to be, in reality, her daughter. The elusive Fanny, unfortunately or fortunately, is now dead after living an apparently ‘colourful’ life replete with several men in it, and—as Ferdie discovers standing in the midst of her funeral procession looking at a corpse which doesn’t resemble the young Fanny he knew in the least—was seemingly, blissfully unaware of his existence (not to mention his overwhelming love for her) till the very end.

The story does not end here, of course. Finding Fanny is really not about Fanny, after all, the viewer discovers, feeling like a fool or a loser or both. Trying to package the hackneyed theme of ‘it is not about the destination, but the journey’ in a puerile attempt at cinematic taxidermy, the narrative closes with the happy union/re-union of Ferdie and Rosalina, along with Angie and Savio. The hapless Don Pedro, after painting a mercilessly grotesque abstract of Rosalina and denouncing her at the same time, had, meanwhile, met his end from a renegade bullet of a long lost gun in the dashboard of his car, accidentally fired by Rosalina in her sham attempt to suicide. Unknown to everyone else, his body had spilled off the car and now lay at the bottom of the sea engulfed in a couple of inadvertently acquired fishing nets while on his drop.

Maybe all this could still have been survived, and I would have been writing differently, if the narrative had proved to be differently structured, the screenplay, dialogues, and music would have been compact and authentic. Things being the way they are, however, the entire film proves to be a monotonous drag, with a message that is as clueless as the film maker, a painfully slow narrative for no apparent reason except that of forcing long periods of frustrating inactivity down viewers’ throats, pathetic attempts at schoolboy-ish humour, a weak parody of grand passions, and, above all and over all, a sea of meaningless insincerity. While all the actors—ranging from the greats like Nasiruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia to the young upcoming Arjun Kapoor and the nubile Deepika Padukone—try their best to heave the flagging plot up on their more-than-able/not-so-able shoulders, they could, for all its worth, be flogging a dead horse.  Not worth a watch.  Regrets, at so many levels.

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