Director: Homi Adjania
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor
Rating: 3 and a 1/2 stars
Set in a picturesque and fictional town called Pocolim, Finding Fanny traces the journey of five peculiar and endearing Goans on their quest to — as the name suggests — find Fanny. While the primary purpose of the road trip is to track down Ferdinand’s (Naseeruddin) long-lost love Stephanie Fernandes or as he likes to call her Fanny, there are other incentives that lure the rest of the entourage which includes a picture-perfect girl-next-door Angie (Deepika) who lost her husband five minutes into the marriage, her well-rounded (pun totally intended) mother-in-law Roslyn played by Dimple, a passionate painter constantly in search of a female muse, Pedro (Pankaj) and a morose young man, Savio (Arjun). Hence, five characters that would have otherwise never found themselves voluntarily under the same roof are cramped into a vintage and rickety sedan.
It all starts when Ferdie finds at his doorstep, a letter that he’d written to Fanny 46 years ago, asking her hand in marriage – a letter that never reached her despite the fact that the one writing it was a post master. Stung by the irony of the situation and unwilling to spend the rest of his life brooding over the loss that never was, he sets off on a quest to find his love with much nudging from his neighbour and well-wisher Angie. What follows is a deceptively funny and effortlessly insightful journey through a scenic Goan landscape. At this point you feel that the film may have borrowed content from Letters To Juliet, but a few minutes into the film and you realize that apart from the very basic plot, the film bears no resemblance to the Hollywood romcom whatsoever.
Once on the road, the five laugh, squabble and make-up before getting back to the routine. The ride, as bumpy as it may have been, brings them closer to each other and themselves. Like most road trip films, this one too is a journey to self-discovery — one that explores the latent desires of those who take it, while underlining the idea that it is the journey that matters, not the destination. Not once though, does the tone seem sermonizing. Laced with racy humour and witticisms, the film delivers some introspective thoughts almost like a sneaky mom who slips in veggies in fun food when no one’s watching. The film has some dark and dramatic moments, but Adjania gives you no time to mull over them, bringing in a comical or satirical twist almost in the next shot and turning the mood right on its head.
The film has many endearing and honest exchanges that bring a smile and invoke a chuckle every now and then. And when these are delivered by the likes of Nasseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapur, there’s little that can go wrong. Naseer’s enthusiasm as he prepares to greet Fanny may convince the viewer that he is in fact, a 16-year-old boy on his way to pick up his prom date. Pankaj, exhibiting the eccentricities of a painter possessed by his muse has some of the best dialogues as he tries to entice Roslyn — like when he dares her dead husband to watch him charm her — “After all, why should he be the only one getting a taste of heaven,” he says.
Dimple too, in keeping with the Goan stereotype plays a woman with a zest for life, pet cats, frilly skirts and brandy. However, she does not overestimate her appetite for alcohol because as she says, it affects her legs, causing them to spread apart. Deepika successfully brings out an almost maternal side while tending to her man-child of a neighbour, Ferdie. Arjun Kapoor too delivers well as a brooding young man who leaves no opportunity to take a sharp jibe at Roslyn. Three other characters include Roslyn’s pet cat, a fierce feline that plays an important metaphor in the film, a Russian hippie who acts as a catalyst for the search and a church priest who seems content with the stagnancy of life in a little hamlet.
The film is beautifully shot and boasts of some very scenic captures. Underplayed, effortless performances, smooth dialogues and a rich script that offers strong yet fleeting answers to some of life’s existential questions, make this film worth a watch. In an industry where the economics of filmmaking overrides the essence of the craft, Finding Fanny reasserts the power of simple story telling, making it one of the most refreshing and delightful films of recent times.