Friday, 19 September 2014

'Finding Fanny'. Losing hope. [SPOILERS]

Pride is the main culprit of 'Finding Fanny', a gorgeous piece of Indian cinema set in modern-day, mildew-covered Goa. Pride is also why the film has zero chance of performing well at the Indian box office: its all-Indian cast speaks clever dialogues in English, the film lacks a strong male hero, and an actress (Deepika Padukone) beloved for her girl-next-door appeal plays a lovely local widow who lusts for and enjoys premarital sex -- outoors!

All reasons for (nearly all male) guardians of Indian cinema to dismiss this film as too quirky, too oddball, too intelligent, too .... ambitious.

Can you even fucking imagine?

Angie (Deepika Padukone) and Savio (Arjun Kapoor).
Finding Fanny doesn't race down a hill like a child's bicycle, all plot and clumsy exposition, like most Bollywood fare. I've seen it twice and without question enjoyed it more the second time. The story is simple and encapsulated by a line Deepika's character Angie says to Naseeruddin Shah's hapless Ferdie: "No one deserves an incomplete love story." A quintet of characters is allowed to breathe and expand, their eccentricities lovingly indulged, from Dimple Kapadia's Rosie Eucharistica (27% of Goa's population is Catholic) hoarding biscuits to Pankaj Kapur's Don Pedro spouting cheap poetry over for Rosie's ample, and apparently fake, buttocks. Arjun Kapoor's Savio is the least fleshed-out character but in a milieu so dominated by comically macho lead males it's a nice change. He may be behind the wheel of the rusty Dodge that takes the quintet along Goa's single-lane backroads but it's Angie and Dimple who are driving everything that follows.

Deepika's the biggest female star in Bollywood right now so it's almost a relief to see her captured in natural light, sans caked makeup and stripper costumes. The Goa of cinematographer Anil Mehta is overgrown and decaying but Angie glows like sand on a beach at sunset. Dimple's Rosie first appears on wobbly heels wielding a collapsible fan like a switchblade but she too is adored by Anil's camera; a later shot of her laying beneath a tree in a field may be the first time I've seen a Rubenesque figure in an Indian film. The pleading sexuality of an older woman laying on her side in a Western-style dress is funny at first, but the longer Rosie luxuriates and drinks cheap booze and chats up the hapless Ferdie, all to the annoyance of Don Pedro, the more she loses her comic persona and becomes what she really is: A desperately lonely woman whose seafaring husband disappeared decades ago. Her relationship with man-child Ferdie is the last thing you'd expect to evolve but it does, which leads to a frustrated, impotent Don Pedro destroying Rosie in the only way he can -- by painting her as an ogre without a face, i.e., without a soul.

Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur) with his grotesque portrait of  Rosie (Dimple Kapadia).
And that's what dooms 'Finding Fanny'. It's normal in Bollywood -- and Hollywood, for that matter -- for 50-year-old men to be cast with romantic leads the age of their daughters. These men always lack emotional maturity and always gain it from falling in love with women half their age. Here, the characters of Angie and Rosie, in vastly different ways, save men OF THEIR OWN AGE crippled by pride and self-imposed celibacy. The only man who gets an upper hand -- Don Pedro -- does so temporarily before landing at the bottom of the sea with a bullet through his brain in a beautifully justified comeuppance.

Director Homi Adajania is a young man with one commercially successful venture (2012's Cocktail) and two critically acclaimed flops, Being Cyrus (2006) and 'Finding Fanny'. The man has bills to pay so it's fair to expect his next film to appeal to the masses but I hope he keeps chipping away at audience -- and critics' -- expectations. Film lovers around the world stand to benefit.

No comments: