Homi Adajania returns to his roots with Finding Fanny. He is at home when he tracks the life of a dysfunctional bunch through vignettes laced with dark, sometimes satirical humor. That’s why Cocktail after Being Cyrus felt like a blip. It was written by Imtiaz Ali and it could have been better off had Ali directed it. The Cocktail universe was more Ali’s than Adajania’s and it showed in the shapes and contours the story took.
But Adajania is more in control of the medium here. From quirky Panchgani in Being Cyrus, he moves to sleepy Pocolim in Goa. Even Angie’s (Deepika Padukone’s) description of the town and people we meet is a narration dipped in lethargy. It’s also the effort we make to dial into the fact that the Hindi speaking actors we know are now conversing in English with a familiar Indian accent. Like this narration, parts of the film feels like it’s better read than heard or seen, like when Angie says, “He is a broken man. And I did the breaking.” to introduce us to Savio (Arjun Kapoor).
To call this bunch dysfunctional is a little exaggeration. They have their quirks and they are all individually interesting. And all of them lead normal lives but with intense pasts. Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) is in search of his long lost love Stephanie ‘Fanny’ Fernandes. Angie wants to help him but also schemes to be with Savio. She first intends to keep Rosie (Dimple Kapadia) out of it but Rosie wants to help Ferdie and is also the self appointed First Lady of Pocolim meddling in every affair. Not many affairs happen in Pocolim though. But the bottom-line is Rosie is nosy. The curiously named Don Pedro played by Pankaj Kapur is a bit of an exception. A man fond of big bottoms (like Rosie’s or the sea’s), he is the only openly self-centered member of the gang and is present only because he owns the car.
The car. The old car Savio fixes and sells to Don Pedro becomes a sort of an allegory within the story. It is rusty and not functional when we see it first. It begins to work but the rust never wears off. It just about runs but encounters several unexplained problems along the way. Once it is also stranded in the middle of nowhere without fuel. That is also when Ferdie decides to go it alone. A lot of action happens in the backseat of the car including a hat tip to Pulp Fiction. Two dispensable characters lie there dead oblivious to some or all the members of the gang.
These are the moments that work in Finding Fanny operating with the theme of characters in love with the wrong people. They’ve all made wrong decisions and need a little luck and divine intervention (what do you prefer?) to go their way. It loses the charm when waxing ineloquent about love and charting its course. The language is pedestrian and the issue of things lost when spoken as opposed to being read crops up again. Not everything translates well from script to screen and the hurried transformation of Don Pedro’s character is another jarring note. The film is short by Indian standards at 93 minutes but could have still been crispier. What cannot be more perfect though is the performance of Naseeruddin Shah. It’s a film with mostly excellent performances but Ferdie stands out. It has less to do with his face and more to do with his hands and legs. Watch when he is telling Angie about Fanny for the first time and picks up the mutton bill instead of the letter first. Or when he is in the front seat of the car holding the cat much to his consternation and sneezing away. Props to Mr. Shah for a masterful performance with props.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)