“O o haaye re meri faniya, Badi funky funky hai
O o haaye re meri faniya, Total nautanki hai”
How I wish they could somehow fit this rambunctious dance number showing all the lead characters with caricatured bodies twisting and twirling like dervishes on steroid into the main narrative of ‘Finding Fanny’!
But never mind, the film is quirky and funny as it is, a sweet and sour tale, rather than bitter-sweet, set in a little-town-lost called Pocolim in Goa, peopled by five wonderful characters; Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapoor), Ferdinand / Ferdy / Fernando ( Naseeruddin Shah), Rosalyn ( Dimple Kapadia), Angie ( Deepika Padukone) and Savio ( Arjun Kapoor).
I like films that pay attention to spoken words.
And this one starts with a lovely voice over in Indian English by Deepika Padukone – with lines like ‘ Wishes are bad habits: like picking your nose and flicking the snoot under the table, or having too much sarpotel in summer’.
It is such a pleasure to meet these characters, straight out of a Marquez novel – lusty, lonely, a little loony, a little lost, looking for love.
What I love about these characters is that they are defined so very much by their physicality. Dimple with her expansive posterior. Pankaj Kapoor the pompous dandy. Naseer with his shuffling gait, loving his hapless loneliness, pining for Fanny. Deepika the careless seductress, with tears welling up in her eyes every now and then, with genuine emotions. Arjun Kapoor the proverbial slacker, with no energy to take a single proactive step. (Much later in the story, it is Deepika who initiates the lovemaking between the two, and points this out to Arjun, “If I hadn’t come back you would just have sat here sulking, right? “ I like their talk after the lovemaking – about the lovemaking. In Indian films they don’t do that much, do they?
The loudest laugh out loud moment in the film is when Dimple turns down the yet another glass of brandy from Naseer, saying. “Drinking too much is bad for my legs.” “ Gout, I know” Naseer plies in a little sympathy. “ No, they make me spread them’ . Well, that’s an existing joke implanted into the film, though one must admit, Dimple delivers the line perfect. But there are genuine funny moments born out of the films own narrative. Not too many, but enough to keep you going through the trip. There is one with the dead cat. There is another when Pankaj Kapoor calls Naseer, “Casanova of the Konkan.’
But it’s not a film of gags for gags sake. There is an undercurrent of loneliness in each of these characters, and hints of how some kind of a grand passion could lift them from their humdrum existence. But in the meanwhile they must make do with what they get… through grandstanding, through a bit of scheming and lying, through just travelling together for a while.
If there was something really underwhelming it was the end. All along we are expecting Fanny to emerge as something of a grand metaphor. Well if that does not happen nothing else happens either, the final revelation around Fanny is neither very funny; nor touching. They certainly could have been more inventive there.
So in the end, you love the film for its characters, none of them particularly good, or heroic, brought to live with superlative performances by all five. Deepika is as luminous as ever, giving us a glimpse into her sensitive but scheming self through her translucent beauty. Arjun Kapoor is a complete natural as the slacker who must be seduced, surprising us with effortless histrionics in the scene where he bursts out at Dimple pointing out how selfish she has been, letting other people take care of her cat and all that; Pankaj Kapoor is an absolute lark as the painter ‘ who wants to capture the soul residing in a beautiful woman’s eyes with his paint brush in shades of colour for which the word doesn’t have names yet.” .Naseer and Dimple are perfect. Age hasn’t looked more interesting in films before.
Talking of age I must quote Arjun Kapoor telling Deepika,” this entire madam this, madam that. When she is just a fat cow.” Of course that’s true, we know that. But Deepika tells Arjun, “Come on. People grow old. We all grow old.’ Interesting touch of empathy to Deepika’s character. But I wish all those life lessons on love not dying after the loved one dies were a little less smarmy and delivered with a bit of humor and irony. (Like saying the lines in 3 Idiots.) Or a little more sincerely, more casually. And not all that stuff about if love doesn’t come knocking, to go and knock, even if there are no doors.
If I were writing those lines I would have brought in pork vindaloo somehow, having exhausted sarpotel already.