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European films

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir film review: a Mumbai magician’s adventures in Europe

This adaptation of a bestselling book follows an Indian trickster who is looking for his father in France and gets into scrapes across Europe. it’s a lively affair with an international cast and Bollywood numbers, but something is lacking

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 10:56pm

2.5/5 stars

A Mumbai street magician embarks on a European odyssey and gets a taste of the immigrant experience in Ken Scott’s ambitious adaptation of Romain Puertolas’ bestselling novel. The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe has been published in more than 35 different languages, and received global acclaim for its celebration of multiculturalism, but its big screen counterpart proves less successful.

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Tamil star Dhanush (son-in-law of legendary actor Rajinikanth) plays the charismatic trickster “Aja”, who heads to Paris to track down his birth father. With no money for a hotel, Aja takes up residence in a renowned Swedish furniture store, where he meets Marie (Erin Moriarty), a beautiful American woman. However, fate soon sees him accidentally shipped to London, where he is detained as an illegal immigrant, setting in motion of increasingly fantastical events as he pinballs around Europe.

Bright, breezy and with an ear for Bollywood musical numbers, Scott’s film bounces along with a wide-eyed sense of wonder, buoyed up by Dhanush’s affable central performance. However, where Puertolas’ novel humanised immigrants and asylum seekers, the film too often falls back on broad racial archetypes.

Oscar nominees Berenice Bejo (The Artist) and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) headline a strong international cast, yet the decision to have everyone speak English squanders their unique talents, while further diluting the source materials key message of tolerance and understanding between different cultures. As a result, Aja’s fantastic voyage remains superficially entertaining, but squanders a genuine teachable moment.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir opens on September 27

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