CHENNAI: Canadian director Ken Scott (“Starbuck,” “Delivery Man”) reduces his latest outing, “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir,” into a farce.
Intertwining his narrative with magical fantasy, Scott dresses up his protagonist, Tamil cinema star Dhanush, as a fakir (holy man) with the tongue-twisting name, Ajatashatru Lavash Patel.
A street performer, Patel tricks Westerners with an ease that seems exaggerated. And he is the second screen Indian to do so in recent months – with Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar also having essayed a fakir in Anand Surapur’s “The Fakir of Venice.”
Patel is the son of a poor, single mother, who grows up in the slums of Mumbai secretly harboring a dream to visit Paris, where his French father lives. Finally, he gets the chance to go to Europe, and Scott takes us to some of the most picture-postcard cities there.
Patel’s travels are as much hilarious as they are silly: he gets trapped in a wooden cupboard belonging to a renowned Swedish furniture company and eventually finds himself in a hot-air balloon, meeting a motley group that includes illegal immigrants, pretty sales executive Marie (Erin Moriarty), and French actress Nelly Marnay (Berenice Bejo, made famous for her role in “The Artist”).
Patel falls in love with Marie and promises to meet her on the Eiffel Tower (a la “An Affair to Remember,” 1957, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr).
Scott uses jaded Indian stereotypes to push his plot. Patel loves his pet cow at home, talks about karma (destiny), levitates like a holy man and while he is no snake charmer, he sure is selling snake oil!
Scott’s work often appears condescending: In one scene, Patel is caught by a British immigration officer, who tears up his Indian passport and reduces him to a bumbling buffoon.
Scott can excuse himself by stating that his film is loosely adapted from Romain Puertolas’ bestseller, “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe,” but surely the director had the freedom to turn his story around.
Instead, he falls into the age-old trap of presenting an India that is hardly true today, and, in the process, trivializing the horrors of the refugee crisis in Europe.