Film Review: Fakir’s farcical European adventure a condescending take on India

‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’ was released in regional cinemas on Friday. (Supplied)
Updated 03 July 2019

Film Review: Fakir’s farcical European adventure a condescending take on India

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.


Dubai gets a taste of kosher

Updated 18 September 2020

Dubai gets a taste of kosher

  • The Habtoor Group has partnered with Elli’s Kosher Kitchen to become the first UAE hotel operator to offer kosher meals

When Elli Kriel moved to Dubai from South Africa eight years ago, she was determined to maintain her family’s kosher Jewish diet and quickly sought out shops serving kosher products in the city.

“At the time we thought we were the only family that kept a kosher diet, but when word got out that we were a kosher family living in Dubai, many Jews who were traveling to the UAE would contact me for food,” Kriel told Arab News.

“I started sending food out from my home to help Jewish travelers and as the community started growing so, too, did the need for more kosher food.”

In 2018, a group of rabbis arrived in Dubai for an interfaith conference and the organizer called Kriel in a panic not knowing how to feed them. Once again, she cooked and prepared kosher meals for the numerous attendees.

“At the time the idea of kosher food outside the Jewish community was strange — something unknown,” said Kriel.

After the conference, word of her services spread quickly, and she received requests from hotel managers, concierges and others who needed to serve food to Jewish guests. In 2019, Elli’s Kosher Kitchen was born.

With the UAE normalizing ties with Israel, a number of hotels and restaurants across the emirate have begun preparations to introduce kosher food and beverages. The first is the Habtoor Group, which will offer kosher meals at several of its hotels, including the Hilton Dubai.

Habtoor Hospitality has partnered with Elli’s Kosher Kitchen.

“There has been great demand since the normalization process with Israel started, and we have had several requests for groups that require kosher food, as well as from tourists from Israel and other parts of the world who would like to visit the UAE now,” Fredrik Reinisch, general manager at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, told Arab News.

Hotels offering kosher catering will include Hilton Dubai, V Hotel, Habtoor Palace Dubai, LXR Hotel and Resorts, Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection LLC, Metropolitan Hotel and Habtoor Polo Resort.

“Kosher food is prepared in accordance with religious laws, the laws of the Jewish religion,” said Kriel. “It has to have kosher ingredients, follow specific methods of cooking and be served in a particular way. But it also applies to the way in which you eat the food. The basic principle is not to mix any dairy or meat products.”

Kriel ensures that all meals are prepared in accordance with OU kosher certification (Orthodox Union), believed to be the most trusted form of certification globally.

Guests with specific kosher preferences will also be able to choose from tailored menus. Meals will be packaged and sealed with an OU certified stamp.

Kosher food is similar to the concept of halal food, which adheres to Islamic law and follows religious rules in production, service and consumption.