The first thing that strikes you about Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny is its cast. In its delightfully colorful opening sequence, Angie (Deepika Padukone), the film’s narrator, introduces us to the fictional backwater village of Pocolim in Goa and its oddball residents who have nothing better to do than interfere in each other’s lives.
When the village postmaster Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) discovers that a letter with a marriage proposal he sent to his ladylove over forty years ago is returned undelivered, he’s shattered that he’s lived his life believing she rejected him. Angie, herself a lonely young widow, decides to help Ferdie go find the only woman he has ever loved — Stephanie (Fanny) Fernandes.
Using various excuses, Angie ropes in for her road trip with Ferdie her mother-in-law Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), the self-proclaimed matriarch of the village notorious for her large posterior, Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur), an aging artist with a youthful libido, and Salvio (Arjun Kapoor), Angie’s ex-flame who has returned to the village after six years. This will be anything but a smooth trip.
It’s a charming, if somewhat clichéd, premise for a road trip movie. Adajania throws in the usual tropes — quirky but classic car, picturesque landscapes, passing through cultural attractions, and of course the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, leading to chaos and major turning points in the story.
Despite the very familiar plot elements, Finding Fanny maintains a certain freshness throughout. It keeps you hooked, due in equal parts to the crisp writing, breezy editing, vivid cinematography by Anil Mehta, and undoubtedly a cast that is clearly having fun with their roles.
Naseeruddin Shah as the lovelorn postmaster steals the show. Shah brings out an innocence in his character that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, depending on the situations he finds himself in. In the scenes where he thinks he’s about to see Fanny, he turns into a bundle of nerves. Shah makes Ferdie so lovable throughout that you can’t help but root for him to find the elusive Fanny.
Dimple Kapadia as the feisty widow at times goes over the top but is still funny and a delight to watch. There are moments when just her facial expressions make a scene sparkle. Arjun Kapoor’s grumpy and disillusioned Salvio is probably his best role so far. He plays the role with ease, which is a refreshing change from his usually macho and aggressive roles.
Deepika Padukone fits into the character of Angie quite naturally. Being the narrator of the story, her purpose in the film seems to be more a commercial decision to give the film a young, attractive hook while the real story takes place with the older actors. Despite that, she really shines in some scenes, especially her tough-love dynamic with Shah.
While the other four characters are all broken and lonely people looking for love and purpose, Pankaj Kapur’s lustful and drunk artist Don Pedro is placed in the story as the catalyst for complications. Kapur often has the best lines in the film and he dives into his character with great glee. However, for all his talent and brilliant comic timing, he is unfortunately given the most unnecessary role in the film. The character serves a largely practical purpose and lacks emotional depth like the others.
The most unfortunate part of Finding Fanny is roughly the last twenty minutes or so. The writing and pacing which had been consistent and enjoyable throughout gets completely derailed by a series of forced events. The characters have emotional outbursts, which are surprising and not always justified, since they aren’t fleshed out with that potential. Kapur’s abrupt exit from the story also comes out of nowhere and changes the tone of the film completely.
The film starts hurtling out of control, much like when the brakes fail on the characters’ rusted old car.
Despite its flaws, Finding Fanny is a pleasure to watch for the most part. It provides ample musings about looking for belonging and love, and thrives in its best moments because of its very talented cast. It’s disappointing that the film doesn’t end as enjoyably as it started because in there lies the potential of a real gem of a road trip movie. Regardless, it’s still worth a watch.
Pulkit Datta is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. He has written extensively on cinema and culture, and also independently writes and produces feature films, documentaries and shorts. Follow him on Twitter @PulkitDatta.