An insipid tale (Reviews)

DEEPA GAHLOT
Friday, 8 February 2019

The Fakir Of Venice
Language: Hindi
Director: Anand Surapur
Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor and others
Showing at: Cinepolis, CityPride, Inox and PVR
Rating: ** 

Farhan Akhtar-starrer The Fakir of Venice gets released after over a decade, in spite of good reviews from the festival circuit. It’s not a film he needs to be embarrassed about, but obviously, his look and image are a far cry from the shallow young man he plays in it.

It’s surprising to see that Annu Kapoor’s movie career never really took off, and that well-known ad filmmaker Anand Surapur did not direct another movie.

The film could have been a satire on the Western world’s fascination with Indian spiritualism, that allows for the proliferation of fake — and some genuine — gurus, but it is too stolid to be funny.

Adi Contractor (Akhtar displaying no Parsi-ness) is a glib production coordinator, who can manage anything, which makes him a go-to guy for film units. When he gets an assignment from an Italian artist, to find a fakir for an art installation, Adi jumps at the chance to venture into foreign territory and also put away some money for studying in the US.

His trip to Varanasi proves futile, it is a Mumbai fixer — more connected than Adi himself — who finds an alcoholic painter Sattar (Annu Kapoor), who is capable of burying himself in the sand for several hours — which is what the Italian gallery wants. With the help of his former girlfriend, he transforms Sattar into a saffron-robed sadhu, and drags him to Venice.

In the art gallery, Sattar is buried in sand with only his joined hands above the ground; the foreigners are fascinated by his feat of breath control. All Sattar wants in return is “daaru.” Adi comes across as an exploitative creep, who constantly bullies Sattar, so that he can flog his skill to others for more money.

The film is supposedly based on a true story, but seems to thrive on the stereotypes of gullible whites in search of spiritual short cuts, and Indian jugaad cons like Adi who take advantage of their ignorance.

A superficial handling of the subject would have been acceptable had their days in Venice been transformative in some way for Adi and Sattar; their relationship never thaws into the warmth of shared experience, or even a real animosity, so the film is neither amusing nor engaging.

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