The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, with Dhanush playing the leading man, is Bollywood meets fairytale. In this mild, sunshine-filled universe, a “fakir” (a street performer pulling cheap magic tricks) from a Mumbai slum can go to France with a fake passport without meeting any challenges on the way. He can land there and experience no cultural surprises at all (maybe because he watches Friends of all things on TV?!), as if he flies to Paris every week and knows exactly what to do.
If you can forgive the blithe disposition of the script towards details and the fact that Ajathashatru Lavash Patel is played by a Tamil actor who sounds distinctly Tamil, The Extraordinary Journey is a harmless film that occasionally makes you smile.
Directed by Ken Scott, the film is based on the book The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe (say this 20 times and it’s the run-time of the film) and follows the miraculous story of a young man who ends up travelling the world through a series of accidents. This great adventure is narrated by Ajaa to three juvenile delinquents for a reason – to offer them hope for the future and an opportunity to change.
Dhanush is charming as Ajaa, smiling through his circumstances and breaking into the kind of energetic dance that he’s known for back home. The actor is wonderfully controlled, never overstretching a moment and carries the film on his shoulders with an easy lightness. However, the idea of India presented in the film is so distinctly through the gaze of an outsider that for a viewer who is familiar with the people and places here, the dissonance is hard to ignore.
Ajaa and his single mother, who works as a dhobi, converse in English. They have a cow named Mohini and Ajaa keeps encountering cows all through his adventure because he’s attached to the animal. Ajaa is also a big believer in karma. I suppose one must be grateful that no yoga-doing cobra or elephant was stuffed into the story to establish “Indianness” even more. The lack of authenticity is too glaring for us to suspend disbelief.
The whimsical romance between Ajaa and Marie (Erin Moriarty), a young woman he meets in an IKEA store, is sweet in an old-fashioned way. Perhaps it’s only to be expected in a fairytale, but it’s still disappointing that in the year 2019, the heroine seems to have no greater aspirations than finding the perfect man without whom she’s lost. Marie’s friend, Rose (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) is the only character who has an edge to her in this saccharine world – at least her adventure of trying to find out if she can “become” lesbian sounds like a more exciting journey than Ajaa’s.
The film wants to say something deep and profound; in his travel through wardrobes and luggage, Ajaa meets refugees from all over the world, learns about war and its consequences. However, the screenplay does not build on any of these to surprise us with new insights. There are a few absurd moments that had the potential to be pushed into hilarity (the song with the British officer is fun) but fall well short. You are not particularly moved by anything that’s happening on screen, making the viewing experience rather indifferent.
The Extraordinary Journey is beautifully shot but feels pretty much like an expensive piece of furniture that sits awkwardly in your drawing room because it simply does not fit in.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.