From a monkey to a pink elephant, his forte seems to be the man who can deliver just anything.
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor, Kamal Siddhu
Director: Anand Surapur
We all tell stories for a reason, and, while some of us may also nurse a secret desire to look for an easy way out and make everyone buy these stories, the lure of the filthy lucre too is undeniably linked to the yarn. Supposedly based on a true story, director Anand Surapur and writer Rajesh Devraj have spun a narrative in Fakir of Venice that would probably have worked well in the 1960s when little was known about the distant foreign land of India and all the exotica that it represented.
Adi Contractor is an Indian hustler who is hired to find a fakir who has the unique ability to bury himself in sand for an installation art project at the famous Venice Biennale. He is obviously someone who is not contented with all the odd assignments he executes for film companies, and looks for making the extra buck. From a monkey to a pink elephant, his forte seems to be the man who can deliver just anything. After trying a few sages from Varanasi who also make a living by attracting tourists, he must grab the latest offer that would help him rake it in.
But when he passes off a poor slum dweller Sattar (Annu Kapoor) from Bombay as a real “sadhu” little does he realise that conning the Europeans would turn out to be more challenging than he presumed. He makes Sattar bury himself entirely with only his joined hands jutting out to create an image of a sadhu in a samadhi — a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation in yoga that is regarded as the final stage of union with the divine.
Sattar is naive and falls for Adi’s game only because he is sold on the huge sum promised to him as his remuneration. Once in Venice, the two begin to understand each other, and though they are both aware that they need to carry out a deception, there is a strange relationship between them. When Sattar gets cold feet and confesses that it all doesn’t seem right to him, Adi’s only consolation — and a well-thought-through plan is to convince him to somehow pull it off as they happen to be in one of the most beautiful places on the planet where they could make a fortune. Sattar, who is at first quite disconcerted with all the attention he garners in a foreign land about his faking a mystic act that makes many visitors to the gallery intrigued, begins to be disoriented as they go along the game of deceit. His health too, that has Adi supplying him with an endless bottles of liquor, deteriorates insulated even as no one seems to know about a unrevealing background to his coughing that worsens with time. Sattar’s c
ontinuous drinking takes a heavy toll, and he feels all the more lost. His inability to communicate in English or Italian makes him all the more isolated.
The story then tells us what each one of us in our way face challenges when we need to make choices, and how we all are able to utilise the benefits accruing from them. Surely, not all these advantages or reimbursements can be weighed in terms of monetary gains.
Soon, the two begin to lose the bond that they were beginning to foster, and one day, Sattar even deserts Adi. The seeds of dissent between the two also let the cat out of the bag that Sattar is no fakir after all — a truth the gallery owners and others also get to know about.
The film that should have been out 10 years ago loses steam midway as the line dividing all the mysticism surrounding the oriental philosophy and the eager Europeans quest for it no longer seems that intriguing. Akhtar and Kapoor are well cast in their respective roles but are left wondering how to take the story forward at times.
There are also moments when both the fakir and the Mr Fix, look forcibly juxtaposed to tell a story that must be told. After the success of Slumdog Milionaire and Monsoon Wedding not every writer can woo the West with an Indian account of universal emotions of love, romance and sham!