One of the positives of Anand Surapur’s “The Fakir of Venice” is its take on Indian spiritualism and the West’s garbled interpretation of it. The problem lies in the way it tries to convey its message, not least because this is a film that is releasing 10 years after it was made.
A year is a long time in the entertainment industry and in the period since Surapur made the film, leading man Farhan Akhtar has gone from being an actor to a director, and to an almost full-fledged musician. Audiences have also changed, as have narrative styles, and Surapur’s staccato, almost awkward arrangement of scenes seems completely outdated.
Akhtar, in what was his acting debut, plays Adi, a smooth-talking ‘fixer’. He organises shoots for foreign film crews, bypassing strange Indian rules and helping them navigate the country. When an art gallery in Venice asks if he can find them an ascetic who can bury himself in sand for an art installation, Adi instantly agrees.
India, after all, is the land of saints and ascetics – he’s sure he’ll find one who wouldn’t mind a trip abroad while earning some money. But the search is harder than it seems, and so Adi finally settles on Sattar (Annu Kapoor), a slum dweller from Mumbai who has been burying himself under sand for years to entertain tourists.
Adi is supremely confident that he will be able to fool the foreigners who he reckons will know nothing about Indian saints and their spirituality. But when the duo lands in Venice for the art show, things don’t go as smoothly as planned.
The film’s 98-minute narrative is lucid only in parts; the rest feels like a staged play. Akhtar is at ease in his role, as is Kapoor as the clueless slum-dweller who finds himself in a foreign city, but the rest of the cast is hardly notable. This is a film that has not aged well.
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