Genre mix misses its marks
The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir isn't really an Indian film, or a musical or a social drama, although it pretends to be all three
The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir isn't really an Indian film, nor is Ken Scott an Indian director. He is actually a Canadian director who was known from his previous work in Delivery Man (2013) and Unfinished Business (2015) -- now making an attempt at creating a new eclectic comedy film that mixes Bollywood and Hollywood styles. Although with all the good intentions and interesting combinations, the result is still somewhat mediocre.
Loosely based on a popular French novel by author Romain Puertolas, The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir tells the story of Indian conman Ajatashatru Lavash Patel, or Aja (Dhanush), who has lived all his life in a poor Mumbai neighbourhood, tricking people with street magic and fakir stunts for a living. After his mother dies, Aja journeys to Paris to fulfil his mother's last wish, as well as to find his estranged father, but instead gets dragged on a never-ending adventure, and a mission for romance.
On his first day in the City of Lights, Aja accidentally meets and falls in love with an American girl, Marie Riviere (Erin Moriarty) at an IKEA store. And after a few moments of wooing her, Marie also falls in love with him. The scene depends too much on the audience's willingness to suspend disbelief. But Aja's strange journey doesn't really begin until when he gets trapped in an IKEA wardrobe that travels outside France.
Aja is soon arrested and is mistaken as one of the thousands of refugees. He is detained as an illegal immigrant, setting in motion a series of increasingly fantastical events as he pinballs around Europe, a kind of movie plot that reminds you of Around The World In 80 Days (1956) or The Extraordinary Adventures Of Mr. West In The Land Of The Bolsheviks (1924).
Aja's adventures later take him to Barcelona and Libya as well as London and Rome. Ironically, he has a passport and describes himself as a tourist but ends up being treated like an undocumented refugee more often than not.
The film shifts a bit in tone as Aja struggles to deal with a system that treats people like lost luggage. The best part of the film is that it does put displaced people into a human perspective. Aja makes friends with his fellow refugees, and learns the basic rules from them. He also finds out that many of them have families, or had one when they set out. They are not people whose only goal is to get government handouts. Each one has a dream to start a business, or something.
While the storytelling is rather mundane and boring in parts, The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir is still entertaining to watch with funny bits taking on cultural differences and stereotypes that are treated with a light comic touch, as well as the great acting of Tamil star Dhanush that deserves some recognition. One of the best scenes takes place in the immigration office at an English airport, and it's wonderful, combining music and dance in a way that reminds us of Bollywood but also Hollywood musicals. Other than that, there's nothing that special about this film.
The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir tries to entertain its audiences with unique humour while dealing with serious topics, with only some moments actually succeeding and many others being rather forgettable.