Too stolid to be funny

The Fakir of Venice

It’s a wonder that a film that was made over a decade ago, gets released, though, The Fakir Of Venice could well have gone straight to a streaming platform.

In the interim, Farhan Akhtar has zoomed up the Bollywood pyramid, Annu Kapoor has, sort of, missed the movie bus, and director Anand Surapur remained dormant.

The film could have been a satire on the Western world’s fascination with Indian spiritualism, that allows for the proliferation of fake—and some genuine—gurus, but it is too stolid to be funny.

Adi Contractor (Akhtar displaying no Parsi-ness) is a glib production coordinator, who can manage anything, which makes him a go-to guy for film units. When he gets an assignment from an Italian artist, to find a fakir for an art installation, Adi jumps at the chance to venture into foreign territory and also put away some money for studying in the US.

His trip to Benaras proves futile, it is a Mumbai fixer—more connected than Adi himself—who finds an alcoholic painter Sattar (Annu Kapoor), who is capable of burying himself in the sand for several hours—which is what the Italian gallery wants. With the help of his former girlfriend, he transforms Sattar into a saffron-robed sadhu, and drags him to Venice.

In the art gallery, Sattar is buried in sand with only his joined hands above the ground; the foreigners are fascinated by his feat of breath control. All Sattar wants in return is “daaru”. Adi comes across as an exploitative creep, who constantly bullies Sattar, so that he can flog his skill to others for more money.

The film is supposedly based on a true story, but seems to thrive on the stereotypes of gullible whites in search of spiritual shortcuts, and Indian jugaad cons like Adi who take advantage of their ignorance.

There is no graph to the characters of Adi and Sattar, however, so the film just goes into a rut after a point, and stays there.

The Fakir Of Venice

Directed by Anand Surapur

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor and others

Rating: Two stars

By Deepa Gahlot

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