A Street magician goes around the world ‘by mistake’

A Street magician goes around the world ‘by mistake’

‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’ comes to our cinemas on May 2, 2019

Venkat Raman

Auckland, April 24, 2019

Poster Courtesy: Penguin New Zealand

Migrants, refugees and travellers have incredible stories to narrate about their travails but some of them are dramatic, fit for a film based on pure fiction.

But the success of a movie depends on how it keeps the audience relaxed or at the edge of their set. Just where ‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’ sits would depend on your perception and preference.

I was among a few to be at a special screening of the movie at Rialto Newmarket in Auckland last night (April 24, 2019).

A new journey for Dhanush

Dhanush, who performs the title role as Ajatashatru Lavash Patel (simply known as ‘Aja’) has carried the film literally from Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat,’ the Launders’ area (although he says he is from the neighbouring, more affluent Worli) in the opening scene, to various parts of the world. He does as he narrates his story to three juveniles, waiting to serve their prison sentence. An actor, who was initially known as the son-in-law of Superstar Rajnikanth, has come to hold on his own as a versatile thespian, ‘The Fakir’ rests solely on his shoulders.

The Original Plot

‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’ was the debut novel of Romain Puertolas, who titled it, ‘L’ extraordinaire voyage du fakir qui était resté coincé dans une armoire Ikéa’ (‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe’) translated into English by Sam Taylor.

The original narrates the story of Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, a 38-year-old fakir who tricks his local village in Rajasthan, India into believing that he possesses special powers and into paying him to fly to Paris to buy a bed of nails from an IKEA store. There he meets a woman named Marie Riviere whom he initially swindles, but is quickly attracted to her personality. Rathod then experiences a series of wide-ranging adventures around the world, initially in an IKEA wardrobe, then a Louis Vuitton suitcase, and a hot air balloon to Tripoli, Libya, while being pursued by Parisian taxi-driver Gustave Palourde whom he swindled out of a cab fare back in Paris and who wants to stab him. Along the way he befriends a Sudanese man named Assefa, “pronounced I-suffer,” an illegal immigrant whom he meets in a vegetable lorry.

The Screen Play and the Movie

The movie has a few twists to keep the audience interested throughout its 96-minute run.

After his mother’s untimely death, Aja sets off on a journey to find his estranged father in Paris with a fake €100 note (after a local Don takes away his money).

He experiences a series of wide-ranging adventures around the world, initially in an IKEA wardrobe to London, England, then a Louis Vuitton suitcase to Rome, Italy, and a hot air balloon to Tripoli, Libya, while being pursued by Parisian taxi-driver Gustave Palourde (Gérard Jugnot), whom he swindled out of a cab fare back in Paris. Along the way, he befriends a Sudanese man named Wiraj (Barkhad Abdi), an illegal immigrant whom he met on the way to London.

There are some extraordinary moments in the film- a British Police Officer Sergeant Smith (played by Ben Miller) shreds Aja’s Indian passport as fake (it was not) without even checking and then tries to sing and dance making his role farcical; we then have a Parisian taxi driver Gustave who plays with the ‘Normal’ and ‘Tourist’ switches in full view of the passenger.

Some Scenes from ‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’ (Courtesy: bollywoodlife.com)

In the film’s best moments, such as a scene where Aja gets stuck in an airport prison in Spain, we see how his experience, however rough, is far less traumatic than those of the women, children and families who have crossed over from Africa and find themselves in bureaucratic limbo.

Dhanush was at his modest-self while distributing €100,000 (that he got for his life’s story written all over his shirt while travelling inside the cargo of an aircraft) to the poor in the desert camps of Libya.

Young Aja played by Hearty Singh and Berenice Bejo as Nelly Marnay bring ethos and life into the film.

‘The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir’ will be screened throughout New Zealand at Rialto Cinemas from May 2, 2019. There were no other details as we posted this story.

We can however say that the film’s Tamil version, titled, ‘Vaazhkaiya Thedi Naanum Ponnen’ (‘I too went in search of Life’)  released a year ago, did well at the box-office.

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