Finding Fanny opens to the sound of a loud sob and barking dogs.
Somewhere in fictitious Pocolim of real Goa, an old postmaster Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) is wailing like a baby because he’s discovered a 46-year-old proposal he wrote to ladylove Fanny (Anjali Patil) slipped underneath his door.
Regretfully, it never reached her.
One never grows old enough to stop feeling the pinch of heartbreak and his much younger best friend Angie (Deepika Padukone) duly sympathizes. Ferdie is too much of an introvert, passive personality to do something about anything till he’s persuaded and accompanied by Angie to seek Fanny and the ‘what ifs’ concerning such a scenario.
A fervid painter Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur) facing somewhat of a artistic block till he lays his eyes on Angie’s cheeky mum-in-law Rosie’s (Dimple Kapadia) conspicuous rear and a grumpy mechanic Savio (Arjun Kapoor) along with Rosie’s cat Nareus are their involuntary companions on this purposeful road trip.
That’s all you really need to know about Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny, which is the kind of happy-go-lucky trip where the joy of journey is greater than the arrival at destination.
Its free-flowing narrative isn’t a slave to structure, synopsis or introspection but a whimsical expedition where pretty much everything is allegorical or comical and dialogues brim with wry humour, “If you stay alive long enough people forget you were born stupid.”
The slowly disintegrating vintage aqua blue Dodge Kingsway carrying the idiosyncratic quintet, the unreliable, confusing road, the cat Nareus, the middle-finger shoving boy from the feast procession, the eponymous lady they’re pursuing -- they all represent bittersweet metaphors of that hysterical adventure called life best enjoyed when traveling in company.
Even at its funniest, Finding Fanny is not so much about seeking a person as it is about wanting closure. And because life, like love, has no rules, it’s conveyed here in a manner most strange, silly albeit cinematically inspiring.
All five are looking for some sort of a presence or breakthrough to fill in the void they tend to suppress yet safeguard by way of imprudence, reticence, exuberance, petulance or enigma alternately. Angie, Ferdie, Savio, Rosie and Don are a peculiar lot, even surreal, but not so far-flung that I would dub them outlandish.
Written with infectious relish by Adajania and Kersi Khambatta, the key protagonists of Pocolim are wonderfully divergent and attractive. Even under its two hours running time, I grew rather fond of them and snapping out of their zany world wasn’t all that easy.
It could be because Finding Fanny pays a gorgeous ode to a Goa that’s still not known to the average tourist -- the sleepy, magical Goa that will let you in if you’re worthy and share its taste for blithe enchantment over sensory pleasure.
Anil Mehta’s Goa is stunning to look at but not overwhelmingly so. Though he shoots outdoors for most part, the interiors, marked with vintage props and art pieces, unfailingly capture the dedicated production design (Manisha Khandelwal). Although all of this would feel empty if not occupied by the vibrant traits of Pocolim's central inhabitants.
And what a terrifically acted one at that. While the younger actors seem understandably chuffed about possibly realising their potential, it’s the seasoned actors who make no attempt to conceal their outward imperfections, often pointing them out in our direction, displaying a confidence that renders aging as powerful and blemishes as beautiful.
Pankaj Kapur’s wanton energy lends Don Pedro a rhythm that finds a kindred spirit in Finding Fanny’s unpredictable vibe.
Deepika Padukone’s relaxed warmth lights up every frame as mightily as Goa’s golden sun.
Dimple Kapadia is a beauty to behold even in the gaudiest of dresses but that’s secondary to how magnificently she plays the most opaque character of this story.
Naseeruddin Shah exudes an innocence that’s rare for an actor who’s spent decades peeling off in front of the camera.
Arjun Kapoor does what olive oil does to Spaghetti Aglio E Olio -- he holds the flavours.
Hearing these characters converse in English takes a few minutes of getting used to, but the veterans know their pauses and emphasis and so sail smooth.
Deepika and Arjun aren't exactly known for their dialogue delivery but they too steer clear of affectations and don't try to sound like Oprah is interviewing them. This lack of rehearsed refinement when they go “I toh don’t know” and “Stingy bugger” only makes them endearing.
Finding Fanny is a fine blend of soulful musings and nuanced filmmaking. And I welcome this clutter breaking space, the First Lady of Pocolim and the Casanova of Konkon with all my heart.