Finding Fanny is a heart-warmingly delightful gem of a movie.
Beautifully rendered on the serene, albeit quirky canvas of the Goan landscape, it is a sensitively handled treatise on loneliness with lies, nostalgia and love seamlessly dovetailing in between as the movie unfolds. When it ends, you don’t want to get up from the seat because you are so enchanted by the simplicity of the narration and the wonderful portrayal of the characters played by Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur, Dimple Kapadia,Deepika Padukone , Arjun Kapoor, the cat, the car and the Russian.
I have watched the movie so many times now and it never fails to bring a wide smile. It’s like having warm milk with chocolate and a cinnamon, lemony, cream filled donut. So comforting.
I can’t stop gushing, can I?
The plot is simple and, as a friend said, moves from point A to point B. So much like Sprite no? Bujhaye Pyaas, baaki sab bakwas?
Ferdie, the lonely, adorably bumbling fool of a postmaster straight out of a Marquezian novel receives an undelivered billet doux one night and is immediately transported to a time when he was young and madly in love with the (probably) belle of Pocolim, Stephanie Fernandes. Ferdie or Fernando as she called him, is shocked, and begins to wonder about how things could have been if the letter had in fact, reached its destination. He is in an emotionally masochistic daze before his young best friend, Angie Eucharistica, a lonely widow still full of the hope and romance commonly associated with youth, coaxes him to get some closure on the Fanny episode by actively looking for news on Fanny. She engineers a plan and ropes in childhood friend/ former love interest, Savio da Gama, a lonely famous painter, Don Pedro(who, by the way,now owns Savio’s car) and her mother in law, Rosalina Eucharistica to go on a fateful road trip to find the woman of Ferdie’s dreams.
It is striking how the undercurrent of loneliness slowly develops a character of its own during the course of the film.
Pocolim is a lonely village where even Time likes to hit the snooze button and relishes its afternoon siestas. Fallen off the map, Pocolimis are content to exist in a make-believe Eden like state. Like Angie says, “things are tough here, but we make the best of what we have”. They have fewer desires and are not too concerned with chasing ambitious projects. Those who did, hardly ever came back.
All the characters are alone and while they have their ways of shunning loneliness, they also embrace it with open arms because it is a state that they are most comfortable in. It is like that blanket you hide under when you are sad and you know that if you cover yourself with it, at least you will be safe for that moment, you will sleep and forget the rest. I think, after a certain period of time, being alone becomes so familiar, that one is unable to see themselves slowly shift towards the realm of loneliness. Unconsciously, they let it pull the strings of their lives.
It is loneliness that drives and sustains Rosalina’s drive to make everyone’s business her own. She craves for appreciation and attention constantly as she meddles in the affairs of others. She is terrified of being alone and so the daughter in law, her virginity, the pampering of the cat Nerys, become the agents that distract her from the hollowness of her life.
Rosalina was abandoned by a cheating husband as a young pregnant woman very early in her marriage. She pretends he was dead at sea in one of his assignments and concocts that story of them being very happy together until the ‘accident’. She is acutely aware of how that has affected her and after the death of her son who choked on the plastic figurines on the wedding cake, she constantly takes recourse in mothering everything and everybody around her. She likes being needed and makes it her duty to meddle in the affairs of others in the name of Christian duty.
Angie, the beautiful orphan and her daughter- in- law, lives with her and while she has lost her husband 15 minutes after her wedding when he choked on the cake, shares the maddening silences and the maddening ramblings caused by lonesomeness in their house.
Observant and mischievous, Angie is also recognizing the vise like grip of lonesome solitude about to take over her life. Like her mother in law, Angie is also trying to stave off the loneliness in her life. However, she believes that nobody deserves an unfinished love story, a trait that only the young are blessed with as the old become more senile and cynical because of their experiences. She helps Ferdie revive the young lover boy he had forgotten. In fact, while orchestrating the whole plan to help the friend, she is able to help Rosalina shed away the layers of bitterness and take a chance on love, an old emotion carefully folded and stored back in the distant drawers of her mind.
As the movie progresses, the characters become acutely aware of the damages of their lifestyle because they are now in the spotlight they have secretly craved for. The comfortable blanket needs to be stowed away and they do so reluctantly, in turn, becoming aware of the masks falling off, even for themselves.
Rosalina falls for the garishly pretty words that Pedro spouts before getting her to agree to pose for his painting. Her loneliness causes her to let his cheap flattery attain a high pedestal that leads her to submit to what she feels is taking a leap of faith into the ‘sea of love’. It is interesting how the solitude that she once felt comfortable in, now troubles her and she is gasping for companionship to sustain the years left for her.
Dimple Kapadia handles Rosalina’s character with a dignity that very few possess. She neither lets the character slip into cliches, nor does she let it go into the tangent of caricature it could easily have taken because this movie is also a subtle satire on social norms and public behaviour. I don’t think i can get over the smitten look in her eyes when she submits to Pedro’s gaudy proposal to become his muse. Nor will I be able to forget the horrified expression etched on her face when she sees the painting.
One can see the gamut of emotions playing Rosalina ‘s mind clearly. She is at once furious at herself for letting go, risking everything for what she thought was a beginning of love, shame at realizing the fact that it was her loneliness after all that made her otherwise, wise self, judge the situation wrongly, terrified of the fact that she would now be judged and shamed the way she herself, once had shamed and bitched about other women earlier, if this painting is unveiled.
Ferdie on the other hand, realizes he is lonely the night the letter arrives. Till then he seems to not have been bothered with his life as a solitary reaper. This realisation and the discovery of the fact that he was on a wild goose chase leads him to finally find solace with Rosalina.
Both of them look at each other now more clearly and discover that over the years the two have been able to build a dysfunctional bond which can be shared in the future without changing their base elements. Rosalina is able to concentrate on taking care of him while he can pursue the romantic lover boy again with a woman whose secrets he has guarded all his life.
Naseeruddin Shah is one of my favourite actors and like all the characters he has played in past, his interpretation of Ferdie will set a clear bench mark for all my other favourite actors. He is like an adorable awkward teenager of an era where love letters and the shama parwana style took romances by storm. You want to hug him every time he shyly smiles and is reluctant to get out of the car and confess his love to Fanny. Ferdie is a writer of beautiful words and can easily charm everyone around him with them. One almost feels jealous of Angie when she gets to read his letter. At least, I was pretty miffed she didn’t read it out aloud. 😦
Deepika Padukone as Angie is delightful. She has come a long way from Love Aj Kal and that shows in the way she handles her chemistry with all the characters around her. I always had a tiny crush on her but man, this time i really think im in love. 🙂 She gives Angie the grace she requires and is able to effortlessly essay the role of a vulnerable woman who never really knew romantic companionship. She captures the hesitance, the reluctance, the eagerness to know about a former love interest’s relationship status before making an effort to reconnect with him romantically. Padukone, like her senior co stars, gives her character the sparkling personality,subtly announcing, that she’s way above all the other contemporaries.
Arjun Kapoor as the angsty young man in search of a more comfortable life, more money and everlasting love is great. But he somewhere gets shadowed in comparison with his senior co stars. I love the way he tries to explain to Angie after they make love that he is not a jerk chasing ‘tail’. The sulk on his face and body language when Angie tells him that he can be better at it is bang on!
Pankaj Kapur is an institution in acting and he adds the master touch to the film. You just can’t take your eyes of the man! You see Pedro and immediately you are reminded of all a$%^&&* you have come across in life. He is at once the pervert, the disgusting eve teaser, the sexually frustrated insider, the mad artist in search of the perfect muse, the selfish, conniving sweet talker all rolled into one. You begin to hate him and are almost happy when he leaves. Yet, of course, you realise that means that’s the end of Pankaj Kapur in the movie. 😦 But he stays, oh he stays on your mind long after you go back home and sit out reflecting on the film.
There is a thin line between loneliness and solitude. When being alone becomes too comfortable it becomes necessary to re-evaluate the situation and check if we haven’t wandered off to the darker side. Loneliness makes us push a lot of envelopes we did not think we’d ever really push. Finding Fanny is about recognizing the need to re define happiness at some point in life and seek routes that take you there.
Everybody deserves the life they have dreamt of. Even if some dreams have to be revised.
Man! I did like the movie a lot eh? How was your experience? Would love to know all about your thoughts on this film. Let’s start a discussion! I have so much more to gush about but can’t ‘coz i’ve already written quite a lot above! :-p