26 September 2023

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Ken Scott, Icon Film Distribution.

Cast: Dhanush, Erin Moriarty, Bérénice Bejo, Barkhad Abdi, Gérard Jugnot, Abel Jafri, Ben Miller.

When it comes to immigrants and their predicament, it’s the subject of impassioned debate. Putting an agreeable spin on that theme comes in the shape of The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir. This optimistic journey is an enjoyable surprise.

It takes us on a wild ride of coincidence and circumstance. Ajatashatru Lavash Patel, aka Aja, is a young fakir (magician) from the streets of India, who arrives in Paris in search of his past and his future. He falls head-over-heels for Marie (Moriarty), whom he meets amongst the cabinets and couches in an IKEA store, and plans to meet up with her again the next day.

When he accidentally gets stuck in a wardrobe that is shipped in the night to the UK, Aja finds himself on the run from border police and bandits alike. As he tries to make his way back to the city of love, Aja finds himself crossing many borders and meeting many colourful characters. The film was shot in India, Brussels, Paris and Rome.

While today’s realities are not truly echoed, this victory-over-hardship tale is likeable. This man from the inferior nadirs of Mumbai goes on a most unexpected trip through the continent that sometimes has us in stitches.

The film’s real appeal lies in Dhanush’s smart turn-out as a destitute foreigner experiencing, first-hand, the illogicality of Europe, and its immigration policies. Being an upshot of the streets, and when it comes to the crunch, Aja is conversant with the ways and means of extricating himself from tight corners.

It’s Aja who is the real hero, merely by the fact that he is a survivor. He may appear to be naïve, but he approaches life with a chipper candidness that allows him to keep hope alive in the worst situations. Even the migrants he meets along the way are stayers.

It’s difficult not to compare Scott’s take of author Romain Puertolas’ best-selling novel of crossing borders, to films like Slumdog Millionaire and Lion.

The journey mainly works because of its star Tamil-born, Bollywood heart-throb Dhanush. Scott directs with confidence and manages to bring his message home by the end.

You can win one of three DVDs of The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir if you correctly tell us the name of the title character. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 26 August 2019. Names of the winners will be announced in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 27 August 2019.

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