Directed by: Ken Scott
Starring: Dhanush, Bérénice Bejo, Erin Moriarty, Barkhad Abdi, Gérard Jugnot
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Adventure
Release date: 21 June 2019
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Ajatashatru Lavash Patel has lived all his life in a small Mumbai neighborhood tricking people with street magic and performing as a ‘fakir’ who can do impossible miracles. After his mother’s untimely death, he sets out on a journey to find his father and rise from poverty.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir is a 2018 French English-language comedy-adventure film directed by Ken Scott and starring Dhanush. It is based on a novel by Romain Puertolas titled The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe. The film was shot in India, Brussels, Paris and Rome. The film released on May 30, 2018 in France. It is releasing in India, USA, Canada, UK, Singapore and Malaysia on 21 June 2019.
The film won two international awards: In 2018 it won in Norwegian International Film Festival the Ray of Sunshine Award and in 2019 in Barcelona Sant-Jordi International Film Festival, it won an award for best comedy.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir: Plot
Ajatashatru “Aja” Lavash Patel (Dhanush), who has lived all his life in a small Mumbai neighborhood, is a street magician and trickster who makes people into believing that he possesses special magic powers. After his mother’s untimely death, he sets off on a journey to find his estranged father in Paris with a fake EUR 100 note. There, he meets a woman named Marie Riviere (Erin Moriarty) in a furniture store who is quickly attracted to her personality. Aja then experiences a series of wide-ranging adventures around the world, initially in an IKEA wardrobe to London, England, then a Louis Vuitton suitcase to Rome, Italy, and a hot air balloon to Tripoli, Libya, while being pursued by Parisian taxi-driver Gustave Palourde (Gérard Jugnot), whom he swindled out of a cab fare back in Paris. Along the way, he befriends a Sudanese man named Wiraj (Barkhad Abdi), an illegal immigrant whom he met on the way to London.
The filming began in May 2017 in Mumbai. In its first schedule the principal photography took place in India, Brussels, Paris and Rome.
The film trailer for Australia was launched in August 2018 by Icon Films Australia & New Zealand on YouTube. For release in India the official trailer was launched on 3 June 2019 by Zee Music Company. It fetched more than 5 million views since its release on YouTube.
The music of the songs is composed by Amit Trivedi, with lyrics by Anvita Dutt. The Zee Music Company holds the right.
A charming Dhanush in a not-quite extraordinary movie
Oddly, though, The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir can be seen as a companion piece to Rohit Shetty’s obnoxious Chennai Express, wherein the hero sets out on a voyage to immerse his grandfather’s ashes and falls in love with his Meenamma. Ajatashatru Lavash Patel aka Aja (an excellent Dhanush, who, at times, looks alien to this universe) undergoes a similar journey in Fakir. The difference is that Fakir is never boring and enjoyable in parts. It opens with Aja narrating a deeply personal story to a bunch of boys from a Mumbai slum, who have been caught by the police for a petty crime.
We’re introduced to a young Aja, an illusionist-cum-street-performer, who is raised by his single mother (played by Amrutha Sant). Through the initial rushes, Ken Scott presents the boy’s worldview through Aja’s eyes. Aja discovers that he’s probably poor, even though his mother says, “We have each other”. He looks at random men and prods his mother, asking if any of them are his dad. The first 20 minutes of storytelling is irresistibly entertaining, only to be crushed by its fluffy and conveniently-written second half. The film unfolds like a fairytale, where Aja shares his ‘extraordinary’ journey of self-discovery that all begins with a ‘chance’. What if there was a chance to redeem his economic condition? What if there was a chance to discover his estranged father? What if there was a chance to travel to Paris with 100 Euro, that too a fake note? What if there was a chance to date an American, because why not? What if there was a chance to make the world a better place?
Aja meets Marie (Erin Moriarty) at a furniture store in Paris. He falls for her at the blink of an eye, and tries to charm her by trying to strike a conversation. When Aja meets Marie at the living room set-up in the store, he says, “Sorry honey, I couldn’t make it for dinner.” She finds this strange, so do we. But later, she, too, joins this quirky game and says, “I’m pregnant.” The scene is so warm, so cute that it makes you smile. And it helps that Dhanush was the ‘chosen one’ to play Ajatashatru Lavash Patel, for his broken English with an Indian accent brings the character alive.
But the problem with The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir is that it’s a soft, superficial take on the streets of India, its people, and migrant crisis among other things. It pretty much operates on Hollywood tropes —a mix of song and dance, actress in a broken marriage, misadventures and situational comedy— popularised by the Johnny English series.
Aja’s eccentric adventure takes him to several countries. During one such trip, he ends up in the wardrobe of a popular Hollywood actress Nelly Marnay (Berenice Bejo). You know she will buy his innocence. You know Aja will help Nelly in return. But what you won’t guess is that Aja and Nelly groove to a Bollywood song. It’s also funny that Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack has been added to a few scenes. We don’t know if this was part of the international version, but it says a lot about what the world thinks of Indian movies.