Cast : Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor, Kamal Sidhu, Mathieu Carrière, Jhilmil Hazrika, Valentina Carnelutti, Igor Horvat
Director: Anand Surapur
Rating: * * ½
Runtime: 87 mins
This is reportedly Farhan Akhtar’s debut film as an actor but the reason why it couldn’t get a release is shrouded in mystery. Worse films have made it to the theatres since, so quality was not the deciding factor and neither was saleability because Farhan Akhtar’s star has been on the ascendant both as director and actor, ever since Dil Chahta Hain and Rock On hit the screens.
Apparently, The Fakir of Venice is based on a true story of an art installation at the Venice Biennale. Rajesh Devraj’s story makes commercial exploitation of the ‘Guru’ factor its main theme. Adi Contractor (Farhan Akhtar) a production controller has a challenging job – he has to ensure that the bizarre demands of the producers are met and to prove that, the narrative speaks of how he once managed to procure a monkey from China as per the requirement of an urgent film shoot in the Himalayas. So the stage is set for the next bizarre demand, this time, from a controversial, maverick Italian art curator Massimo (Mathieu Carrière). He wants to do a live installation of a Fakir who can spend hours together in a samadhi of sorts, buried completely under sand, in Venice of all places.
Fixer Adi wants this assignment because he has to go to film school and needs quite a bit of moolah to cough up the fees. In his search for the ideal (for which he searches through Benaras and Juhu beach) he lands on a passable substitute in Sattar(Annu Kapoor) who is desperate for money since he has no job to speak of. Mandira (Kamal Sidhu) gives him a makeover and the faux Guru is set-up suitably to do the needful in Venice. But his alcohol addiction and Adi’s attempts to get laid turn the whole adventure into a fiasco.
The film approaches the subject of selling faux spiritualism to the west with a whittled down, farcified vision. Sattar’s hallucinations brought on by alcohol withdrawal get repetitive and lose significance after a point. Even his tryst with death becomes a farce but irony doesn’t gain import the way it is played out here. While Annu Kapoor’s definitive performance does increase the engagement to some extent, the hopelessly contrived conflicts and the largely superficial aspects of the plotting, leave a lot to be desired. Farhan Akhtar’s debut performance is enthusiastic but the tone and tenor is not honed well enough for effect.
The dialogues try to insert some much needed spirituality and meaning into the drama but it all seems like mumbo-jumbo given that none of the characters have any real feel for a deeper entrenchment. Director Anand Surapur fails to imbue his effort with a stronger vein of emotion. There’s neither humour nor pathos to keep the viewer engaged. The bland indifference in tone and the needless padding for cinema length, plays spoilsport here. Even the rather short 87 min runtime comes across as inordinately long drawn, here!