Monday, 29 December 2014

Finding Fanny

Directed by: Homi Adajania
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Kapoor
Released: 2014
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Oh the irony! I always wait for DVDs to come out with English subtitles so I can enjoy the film. This one was to be in English... so naturally I downloaded the Hindi dubbed version and had to deal with speech not always matching the lip movement. It was a mild irritation, but irritation nontheless. And how are you to find Fanny, if you cannot find a gripping plotline? Truth is that I had looked forward to Finding Fanny with great expectations. I loved the trailers and promos, it had a wonderful star cast and sometimes you just have a good feeling about projects that are coming your way.

Unfortunately the expectations are not exactly met, though the movie manages to stand out of the crowd. It is very quirky (though not as delightfully quirky as Dedh Ishqiya, which too was labeled as black comedy), but lacks any wit. It deals with the bizarre and the absurd which life brings, but it is not as bizarre and absurd as I would need it to be to feel entertained rather than depressed. Using the statement of the drunken Russian who also makes an appearance: „Fanny? It is not funny!“ However crazy the situations in Finding Fanny become, they are not stepping over the line which makes black comedy funny. Instead you feel somehow sad, pitiful, and at time mildly disgusted (speaking the cat scene here, which was ever so much worse for me as a lover of animals and cats in particular). On the plus side it only lasts hour and a half, which is just about right for the subject. Plus points to be noted for fitting music (the main melody still rings in my ears) and visuals.

Stuffed in a flaked vintage car the five protagonists are on a way to find love and discover something about themselves. A young man Savio that sometimes one has to act instead of just waiting for something to happen. Beautiful Angie that not all stories have happy endings, but one must carry on. Elderly seductive siren Rosie that hollow pride combined with flattery may result in something very shameful. Adorable Ferdie that even the girl he once had loved did age. And art-obsessed Don Pedro that it may not be the best idea to get into a car with these other four, unless you wanna end up with an accidental bullet in your head and forever missing on the bottom of the sea. Many scenes are so very human one feels the acute embarasement at witnessing them, as an intruder in something that is not your business. I just cannot decide whether that is a good or a bad thing.

What saves Finding Fanny are ultimately very good performances from the whole cast. The young ones - Arjun and Deepika, do not go through many mood changes, and hold steadily and naturally against the elder three, who are acting masters in their own right. My favourite was definitely Naseeruddin Shah. Compare his Ferdie, who cries and howls without shame when sad, who is as soft and gentle as a child, to his Dedh Ishqiya character, who could boast of immense charm, but also vanity, cunningness and sneekiness - though the face remains the same, the two are so distinctly different I just felt in awe of Mr. Shah yet again.

I am glad Finding Fanny exists. It is different and not bad. Just not great either.  

Monday, 1 December 2014


Directed by: Shekar Kapoor
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Saeed Jaffrey, Tanuja, Supriya Pathak, Jugal Hansraj, Urmila Matondkar
Released: 1983
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The over the top reactions and dramatics are part of Bollywood and you just have to go with the flow. It is not a bad thing per se (except sometimes, when it does not go over the top, rather like over the galaxy). But from time to time even in Bollywood there are movies which abandon both traditional mainstream formulas and (let´s say) fiercely passionate acting, and become perhaps not a great entertainment, but an interesting probe into more everyday lives of more common people. They are relatable to the fullest and remind us of what it is to be.... well, normal, with the failings and generosity of which we are all capable of. Shekar Kapoor is undoubtedly a great director with a touch for..... that special something which makes your heart feeling all fuzzy in the end. Be it in fantastic extravaganza of Mr. India or quiet, wide-eyed Masoom.

Naseeruddin Shah is a loving husband to Shabana Azmi and an adoring father to their two little daughters (the elder of whom is none other than baby Urmila Matondkar). He has everything he could possibly want, except sometimes he jokes he lacks a son. However he is in for a shock. Once upon a time he was unfaithful to his wife, for reasons he himself cannot explain, and he indeed had sired another off-spring. Now the boy´s mother is dead and he must take responsibility for the child. While he could probably cope with the situation, the child, oblivious about the facts, could easily break his home and all the certainties it once represented.

Not many words are needed for the two spectacular lead actors to convey their painful inner struggle to the viewers. Naseeruddin tells everything with his eyes. With Shabana, it is little things. Slight change of intonation when talking to her own children and her husband´s son. Her apprehension on serving him food. Her own confusion whether to hate the child or not. Hers is not an easy role. Easily she could have become an evil step-mother. Instead she is what she is – a woman trying to cope. She realizes the child is innocent, yet she is not capable of seeing him that way. One cannot hate her even during her more rash outbursts. We just know her pain. At the same time we pity the child. The whole situation is heartbreaking, yet there are no villains, only humans.

The children in the film are really good, Jugal Hansraj especially deals with a heavy-load of his role brilliantly. Shekar Kapoor is one of the very few Bollywood directors who know how to find a child actor, that is not artificial and annoying (which is really Hindi cinema standard even today). The supporting cast too is good, even though I was somehow baffled by the character played by Tanuja. I understand she was meant to be sort of Shabana´s trusted genius, whose own actions would show her friend which road is best to take, unfortunately she was really the one that felt somehow preachy and forced into the plot. Shabana could have made up her mind herself easily enough, without Tanuja´s transformation from „strong, single, yet miserable“ to „beaming with happiness cause my dude decided to come back“. Supriya Pathak makes only a brief appearance in flashbacks. I can only say hee complete difference from Shabana, in both appearance and character, makes it easy to imagine that Naseeruddin fell for the temptation of an unknown and unfamiliar, even if just once.

Masoom is very human, sad but ultimately beautiful, soulful movie. A true tribute to a family spirit. (unlike some other films....)