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On the road with a bunch of delightful loonies

13th Sep 2014

Finding Fanny

Director: Homi Adajania

Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Deepika Padukone

We've crossed into another state.
What state?
A bloody mental state!

Bundled into a battered blue car, trying desperately to get through a road trip, are five slightly unhinged characters getting on each other's nerves. An old postman Ferdie, aka "Casanova of the Konkan" (Naseeruddin Shah); Don Pedro Cleto Colato, a painter of questionable mental stability and an untameable love for buxom ladies (Pankaj Kapur); Rosie, a widowed drama queen with an ample bosom and bottom (Dimple Kapadia); Angie (Deepika Padukone), the chicken-butchering 26-year-old virgin widow (and Rosie's daughter-in-law); and, driving them all, a bitter, lovestruck car mechanic, Savio D'Gama (Arjun Kapoor). Oh, and there's Rosie's pet cat. So that's six.

This is the car you want to hitch a ride on. With this bunch of dysfunctional loonies on their way to find one Stefanie (Fanny) Fernandes, the love of Ferdie's life, who he's pined for his whole life. Back in the day (46 years ago, to be precise), Ferdie wrote Fanny a letter that contained a declaration of his love for her, and a proposal. She never replied, which broke his heart, and he's never loved anyone since. One quiet night in the sleepy town of Pocolim in Goa, someone slips that very letter, still unopened, under his door. As he holds the yellowed envelope in his hand, he realises that it was never delivered; that Fanny never received the letter, that "she never even knew!"

"No one deserves an incomplete love story," insists Angie, his best friend and belle of Pocolim, and decides she's going to help Ferdie reunite with his long-lost love.

Is Fanny dead? Married? On a different continent? Rounding up the troops — who are all too eager to get on board with this because it will get them the hell out of the otherwise completely uneventful Pocolim — Angie, Ferdie and their unlikely companions are about to find out.

What follows is a road trip that you know immediately is going to be a little crazy. Shah squeaks pitifully through the film as a cuddly old postman with a broken heart, Kapadia carries all her extra weight around with great pomp, and Kapur brings back the delight of the sort of character we saw him play in Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola. And they are each absolutely outstanding in their roles as slightly overplayed Parsi-Goan characters, balanced beautifully by controlled performances by the younger duo of Padukone (who's sweet, but not so much that you want to punch her) and Kapur (who seems remarkably at ease in this role).

What I particularly enjoyed was the attention writer-director Homi Adajania has paid to detail in his little ode to love and all things vintage. The main ensemble of course seems perfectly cast, but so do the supporting characters. There's musician Ankur Tewari, who plays an eager young man who approaches Rosie with a mix of excitement and trepidation because his mother says she will find him "a solid girl to marry"; Anand Tiwari as a nervous (and hilarious) town priest (a little like his character in Go Goa Gone); and Padukone's real life lover and Kapoor's best friend Ranveer Singh, who makes a super-quick appearance as Angie's husband who dies on his wedding day when he chokes on the cake.

Overall, I have to say that it's not a movie that I was absolutely blown away by. It could have been funnier, it could have been sharper; there are structural issues, plot holes, a very average, predictable climax, and a completely unnecessary conclusion. But what gets you is how obvious it is that the entire cast has had a really good time putting this one together. And so, like any truly memorable road trip, Finding Fanny is about the journey, not the destination. In an industry that is wildly enthusiastic about its endless love stories, this one stands out as a quirky little easy-breezy film that's definitely worth both your time and money. Go watch.

-Ravina Rawal

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