So rarely do we see our actors going though a Renaissance of sorts in Bollywood. The novelty of finding an excellent script with beautifully rounded characters in the hands of an uncompromising director is a near impossibility. There is always something that gets in the way ‒ the laughably stupid Censor Board of India being the leader of the wolf pack ‒ that reduce an earnest effort to rubble. Thank heavens, then, that Homi Adjania’s Finding Fanny breaks through unscathed to grace our screens and shower us in its unforgiving charisma. Let’s put our hands together for India’s very own Little Miss Sunshine.
During his month-long village stay near Goa, Homi Adajania wrote the first draft of the film’s screenplay and added some wonderfully off-the-wall characters. He set them up in the fictional village of Pocolim. According to him, Pocolim is a hybrid Marquezian Indian village: a place where its residents feed on infectiously trivial gossip, passed around by people whose own lives could inspire a dysfunctional novel. The unmissable touches of the Indianness of it all are vivid; they trickle down a ramshackle house, or flash their age in the iron oxide of the rust on old government post boxes. Fitting rather, for the story begins with a wailing postman called Fernando, who receives a letter which he sent to his sweetheart Fanny more than four decades ago. The letter never reached her. He mourns the bygone era of the love he never found, the love for which he spent his entire life waiting. Angie (Deepika Padukone) is a young widow whose arc starts when we see her muttering “sorry” under her breath before beheading a chicken. She urges Ferdie to go find Fanny. Circumstances take a toll on their questionable amount of sanity when Angie’s mother-in-law Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), Angie’s old flame Savio (Arjun Kapoor) and a perpetually tipsy painter called Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapoor) join in on the trip. Word of caution: cat lovers will be laughing through their tears.
Don Pedro finds his muse in Rosie: her prosthetic posterior adding up as a list of reasons for his wildly funny gazes. It is neither love nor lust, just an artist’s lost etiquette upon finding the inspiration for his next wondrous creation. All the five actors give excellent performances. Pankaj Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia and Naseeruddin Shah are valued assets of our industry ‒ in a time of falling standards and selling out to greedy producers ‒ their veteran glow of beautifully nuanced acting shines. Arjun Kapoor is excellent, too, as the misfit in the group whose feelings for Angie may not have subsided completely. He minces his words carefully in fractured but clean dialogue and brings the house down when reacting to the inexplicable finger gestures he gets from strange kids. Deepika Padukone’s effeminate charm, when paired with a delightful performance of a well-conceived character, borders on miraculous. She distinguishes the slight room between the individual quirks of the five characters and wiggles a way for her own with terrific control. As the traveling circus stumbles around in the dark looking hopelessly for love and life, we guffaw.
Full points to cinematographer Anil Mehta, whose camera succeeds in seizing the wistful longing of the film’s narrative. Adajania directs as if under a spell, putting his characters’ emotions on the line, and then driving them home with a chirpy, befitting background score. The film’s music has been composed by Mathias Duplessy, with Sachin Jigar and Sachin Gupta who aided to compose the song “Fanny Re”. The music, the acting, the warm intelligence of the script and the direction: all come together like prancing ponies and fit each other’s cracks like magic. The film pays its homage to the time when laughter in the cinema could be summoned at anyone’s expense by incorporating one scene that Pulp Fiction fans will immediately recognize. I say goddamn.
I don’t recall the last time I felt like watching a Bollywood film again on the same day. Oh how times have changed.