Review: Naseeruddin Shah gives romance a wicked twist in ‘Finding Fanny’

Bollywood’s obsessed about love, yet not one of its many love stories hold out as much promise, passion, pain, and wit as Homi Aajania’s incredibly sinful labour of love – ‘Finding Fanny’.

It’s a world so utterly chaotic and crazy, yet one that magically transforms into something so beautifully whimsical without being over-the-top.

Watching Homi flaunt his extraordinary craft while building a story of unrequited love around five odd characters, each weighed down by a past none too glorious, in what could truly be his masterpiece, is strangely uplifting. More so, because he frames his story in clean, simple frames, devoid of stereotypes.

The shrill-pitched Freddy, a postman without much to do, is woken up one night to be reminded of a love he could’ve possessed 46 years ago. The memory breaks him down, and he wails inconsolably, waking his neighbours. The lights come on, but the people never step out, offering an interesting insight at how chaos and drama often play out in reality.

He shares his aged written proposal to his “only” love Fanny with the angelic widow Angie, who decides she must take him to her.

She collects her boisterous mother-in-law Rosie, the lustful painter Don Pedro, and her long-lost grumpy pal Savio for a drive that could help reunite Freddy with his Fanny.

And, there begins their epic journey, magnificently penned by Homi and Kersi Khambatta, gorgeously captured by cinematographer Anil Mehta, and swiftly edited to 105 minutes by Sreekar Prasad.

It’s a road-trip like no other, with the five oddballs and a pesky cat, huddled in a rusty, vintage dodge. It’s a journey with many pit-stops and break-downs, that lend innumerable twists and turns, each more terrific than the other. And, each propelling the story forward and throwing insight into the people they are, and the ones they will grow into.

If there’s a bone to pick, it’s the unnecessary need to texture the sinfully delightful English narrative with Hindi. For the few of us in Dubai, who’ve had to watch it in two-languages, the essence was unforgivably diluted. The jarring disconnect between the motely bunch’s voice and their lip movement is distracting. Had Homi decided to reshoot in Hindi, it would’ve been far more impactful.

That grouch aside, there’s nothing pretentious about Homi’s latest take on love.

Bollywood’s also about its heroes, who are exceptionally good-looking, waltz their ladies with killer moves, beat the baddies in a flash and win the world over with their charisma, yet none of them are any match for the awfully shabby old man from the rustic Goan town of Pokoli.

Naseeruddin Shah outshines as the timid, yet hopelessly romantic Freddy. He’s poetry in motion, and that’s no exaggeration. You watch him articulate so luminously with his eyes, that you can’t help but fall in love with him.

Homi even indulges him some wicked lines. “It’s funny how you can cry underwater,” he wonders, so innocently, when awakened from a dream that dips him in the ocean. At another, he simply announces “I don’t want to die”, when coaxed into searching for a lady he spent years longing for.

Another precious moment arrives when he forces Savio to stop the car, just minutes before the possible big reunion, only to brush his messy hair, put on his bow-tie, and thank his fellow travellers for prompting him to go the extra mile.

After Naseer, it’s Dimple who dazzles as the voluptuous Rosie, enthusiastically surrendering to her insecurities without ever hamming it. Dimple’s brilliance emerges when she painfully indulges an impious artist and is aghast at how his artwork finally shapes up. It’s the same artist who persuades her, earlier on, to imagine how vividly he can portray her on canvas. She’s left amused yet unable to imagine his vision. A confusion that she cleverly translates on-screen.

Pankaj Kapoor comes third, as the offensive painter Don Pedro, who unashamedly pursues his muse for his creative nirvana. Despite playing a person, who is not entirely flattering, he allows us to tolerate, and occasionally love Don Pedro. You sense there’s an endearing side to him, when you watch him greedily collect a handful of biscuits, and happily dips them into his cup of tea. It’s when the soggy half disappears into the tea before it reaches his mouth that you sense his hopeless dejection.

Deepika Padukone steps in to the fourth slot, not because she isn’t good, but because she’s far less experienced, and the others have far more promising parts to play. That said, she’s divine to look at, and has evolved into an actor of repute. There’s not an expression or mood she doesn’t get right.

There’s also Arjun Kapoor, who breathes fire into the rugged Savio, who returns to his village hoping to win back the girl who he loved but never proposed to. He holds his own, and matches up to the other seasoned actors with integrity, and that’s saying a lot.

And, a special mention for Ranveer Singh as Angie’s few-minute-old on-screen husband Gabo, for stepping into a slot that could’ve gone fairly unnoticed but one that he didn’t allow.

With so much going for ‘Finding Fanny’, make sure you’d step out and hitch a ride with this mad bunch and go on their road-trip because it’s truly one-of-a-kind.