The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir: An extraordinarily ordinary journey

On some level, I think it’s fair to say we almost know exactly what to expect every time an international production begins to make a film with an Indian protagonist. Of course, he’s going to be from Mumbai, and he’s going to be poor (this film takes it a step further by making him narrate his story, in all its ‘wisdom and beauty’ to a fawning audience made up of four poor Indian boys about to be incarcerated). Of course, he’s going to be given a name that’s quite hard to pronounce: Ajathashatru Lavash Patel (Dhanush), a name I dare say even Indians will have a tough time pronouncing. Of course, there are going to be references to magic, because India is such a magical land. Of course, he’s going to be raising a cow— called Mohini— that is deified. It’s a cow he dearly cares for, and yet, it’s one he doesn’t hesitate a moment for, when deciding to bid an urgent goodbye. Of course, he’s going to be shown as some sort of charming charlatan, who earns money by performing cheap levitation tricks. The film engages in a bit of charlatanry itself, when it superficially touches upon ideas like karma and almost implies that the suffering of refugees is perhaps on account of past misdeeds in this birth or another. There’s more: Paris supposedly has a strong geomagnetic field that makes romantic love particularly intense in it. Whatever you say, guys.

Director: Ken Scott
Cast: Dhanush, Erin Moriarty, Barkhad Abdi, Berenice Bejo

This film is based on a book called The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe, and having read the book, I can assure you that this mysterious title seems to have done a lot more for its popularity than what’s in it. It isn’t that I don’t take to adventures or fairy tales, but this film is hardly a good example, for lack of the sort of beauty and dreaminess such tales typically burst with. There’s little that’s dreamy about showing international refugees, and then looking to wrap it around bubbles of manufactured good fortune. In one scene, the police are chasing these hapless immigrants, and the film tries to pass it off as some sort of a Tom and Jerry chase sequence. They scamper in and out of people’s houses, and in one of them, the inmates are engaged in some BDSM activity. This is also a film that tries to milk, unsuccessfully, a female character’s confusion about her sexual identity, for comedy.

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