Written by Dania Syed
What To Expect
An English-language Indian film boasting a strong cast from the Indian film industry (now notoriously known by its dubious title, “Bollywood”), about a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, the latter’s heartbroken lover, a Casanova painter, and an old postman yearning for the love of his life, all in one car. A typical Bollywood film it’s going to be – friction at a high in the mother-daughter-in-law relationship as heartbroken lover broods over his belle, with Casanova painter licentiously eyeing the two ladies, and forlorn postman teaching them to sort their differences and find love with one another by means of breaking into random, synchronized dance musicals. Aha! But this isn’t your typical juicy-schemed, jealous-connivers, dance-numbers, and/or melodramatic conflict-resolution laden “Bollywood” movie at all. This is director Homi Adajania offering the world yet another winning feature in Finding Fanny, from the passionate heart of Indian Cinema.
What’s It About
In the quaint Goan village of Pocolim, Ferdinand “Ferdie” (Naseeruddin Shah) is devastated when a love letter he had posted to his sweetheart, Stefanie “Fanny”, is returned to him after 46 years, as realization dawns that his beloved did not reject him, but rather never knew his feelings for her. The young widow Angelina “Angie” (Deepika Padukone), his only friend, convinces him to find Fanny and express his love. She then ropes in Savio (Arjun Kapoor), an old friend heartbroken by her decision to marry someone else, because he’s the only person in Pocolim who knows how to drive, Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapoor), the pugnacious painter whom the car they must travel in belongs to, and Rosalina “Rosie” (Dimple Kapadia), her mother-in-law, and the self-appointed queen of Pocolim, as an incentive for Don Pedro, to come along on the wild goose chase.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Finding Fanny is a lighthearted, laidback take on the various philosophies of love, life and closure. The film is not an in-your-face comedy, but it is abundant with an undercurrent of immaculately timed comical cues that will have you laughing out loud, at times even getting very surreal (such as a foundering human body underwater).
Anil Mehta, whose résumé boasts some fine cinematography for big Indian Hindi-language features, beautifully captures the bright, nonchalant ambience of Goa, setting the tone for Pocolim’s quaintness where people simply exist and small talk is a way of life. Editor A. Sreekar Prasad, flaunting a diverse showreel of his own, does justice to this with his skills, complemented by Mathias Duplessy’s music not only to establish the scenes but also the emotions.
Centering on a road-trip, it is rather predictable that the narrative is going to be about the journey of these characters, not just to find Fanny, but in search of resolution. Despite its cut-rate length of 105 minutes, you can’t help but glance at your watch every now and then, wondering how much time has elapsed. However, the film’s slow-paced and placid narrative eventually grows on you, and can easily be forgiven for the lovability of its characters, neatly crafted by Adajania and Kershi Khambatta, as you get immersed in understanding them and exhibiting traits that we can all identify with at one point or another throughout the film.
To Perform Or Not To Perform
The main cast comprises of very renowned names in the Indian film industry, two of them – Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapoor – known as the “Walking Acting School in India.” All five of the lead actors deliver remarkable performances to keep this character-driven yarn alive and beaming.
Shah strikes all the right chords at the helm of the narrative, making postman Ferdie the most adorable of the lot upfront, and my personal favorite. He brings warmth to the narrative and his character, and throws in a performance so genuine you cannot help but smile throughout the various moments in the film at Ferdie’s innocence, and longing for his love.
Deepika Padukone is the choice of narration and she delivers a very convincing performance as the cheery Angie, on one hand being the “angel” helping Ferdie, and on the other hand intelligently talking people into tagging along for the ride, striking a perfect balance in a character who herself has been deprived of her true love. Learning to put aside her on-screen beauty, she has reached in for something truer with her portrayal of Angie. And taking personal bias into consideration (much to the chagrin of fan, friend and reviewer Ankit Ojha), I do find her rather better suited to classical or more countryside related roles, as far away from the trendy hip girl as possible.
If halfway into the film you find Arjun Kapoor’s Savio’s self-pitying attitude and obnoxious body language annoying like I did, then be sure that he’s done a fine job at portraying the irate and forever-cribbing Savio. You may just begin to understand what constantly frustrates this individual, even though – as Angie says in an outburst – he seems to have everything, and Kapoor deserves a pat on the back for grasping Savio’s bitterness and remaining in control despite a few hiccups, although minimal.
Dimple Kapadia, as Angie’s mother-in-law Rosie, is a surefire win in her third consecutive collaboration with Adajania. Forty-one years of experience in the industry shining, she is hands-down very satisfying to watch as the dreadful, sharp-tongued, middle-aged woman, plagued with far too much pain in her life that she is too proud to reveal; her padded posterior being a source of obsessive inspiration for the farcical Don Pedro, whom Pankaj Kapoor brings to life with unsurprising forte, his veneer of pseudo-charisma directly and indirectly stirring laughs.
Finding Fanny is not an easy film to make, being as persona-driven as it is. Despite its slow pace and simple plot, it makes for an overall satisfying experience. Homi Adajania is unquestionably a very talented filmmaker, and offers something uniquely different to audiences. And if you are up for watching some fresh and light work, stepping away from how conventional Indian films are made, this is surely a film to catch!
Star Rating: 4 / 5