Friday, December 26, 2014

Finding Fanny — Of Finding Love, Happiness, and Closure



At one point in Homi Adajania's Finding Fanny, Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) remarks, "Wait karne se kuch nahi milta, dhoondne se milta hai." This beautiful line perfectly summarizes the message of the film that one should not keep on 'waiting' that love and happiness would come and knock on the door, but instead one should 'find' these on his own, through his own journey. If you will not try to find it, you will not get it which, incidentally, Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) also said in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, "Nahi dhoondogi toh nahi milegi." Adajania's third film marks his return to the genre of filmmaking that he is most comfortable with — dark comedy. Finding Fanny is essentially the story of people living in a small hamlet in Goa called Pocolim, where as the film says, "Yahan ghadi bhi na kuch ajeeb chalti hai, ruko to ruk jaati hai, daudo to daudne lagti hai" — life follows your footsteps. One day, Ferdie (Shah) receives a letter that he had sent 46 years ago to the love of his life, Fanny, and finds out that his letter was never delivered to her. Heartbroken that he spent his entire life thinking that he had been rejected, he is convinced by his virgin widow friend, Angie (Deepika Padukone), that he should find her because, "Koi love story aise incomplete nahi reh sakti." Angie, then, devises a plan to find Fanny taking the help of Savio (Arjun Kapoor), with whom her relationship can be described as 'It's complicated'. Savio is a mechanic who is repairing a car owned by Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur), a painter who finds inspiration in buxom women. His latest inspiration is Angie's mother-in-law Rosalina (Dimple Kapadia), sometimes, called as the First Lady of Pocolim. Angie manipulates Don to come on a road trip and they use his car to travel to find Fanny. The plot is wafer-thin but as most films go, it is not the destination but the charm of the journey that is more important. All these people embark on a journey to not only find love and happiness but also to find closure to their incomplete adhoori lives.


Beneath the facade of comedy, the film is impregnated with a scent of melancholy of its lugubrious characters. There is an element of tragic helplessness associated with each of the characters. The cause of their despair is not entirely due to their own actions, but mainly because life, in more than one way, has been unfair to them. Rosalina's husband left her for another woman leaving her pregnant with Gabo, and she had to put a sham that he died because her pride would not let her accept her husband's affections for another woman. Her soul is painted empty by Don Pedro because she has not let go of her pride. Angie's husband died on her wedding day, after her first kiss, leaving her sexually deprived as a virgin. Ferdie spent his life thinking that he had been rejected but his letter was never delivered in the first place. Savio went to Mumbai to make a life but ended up being a waiter and has come back to his crumbling home which his father left him. The fact that he is lying that he made money in Mumbai reflects that he is also trying to hide something like Rosie. Not to forget that the girl he loved married his best friend, leaving his own love story incomplete. There is a sense of incompleteness—mental, sexual or emotional—associated with each of these characters and that is why the thing that they are looking for the most, even more than love, is a sense of closure. And, as to the lecherous Don Pedro, he is only a means to reach that closure, whether be it his car that they use to find Fanny or his painting that helps Rosie realize her abject hollowness, which is why he died midway, unnoticed by anyone. Even the cat Nereus got a decent burial than Don.  

There is also a sense of similarity between Angie and Rosie, and Ferdie and Savio. At one point, Angie remarks that there is one thing common between her and Rosie, and that is loneliness. Not only that both of them are terribly lonely, but there are other similarities between the two of them. Their husbands have died (at least Angie does not know the real story of Rosie's husband). Their husbands, perhaps, never loved them. Rosie's husband left her for another woman. Angie's husband loved himself more than her, and as later we find out that he married her because Savio wanted to marry her. Both these women left abandoned by their husbands, trying to take care of each other. If Angie protects Rosie from the physical advances of Don Pedro, Rosie would do the same to protect Angie from Savio because uski nazar na thori kharab hai.    



The similarities between Ferdie and Savio are even more stark. Both of them in some way did not have the courage to express their love. Ferdie wrote a letter to Fanny and when he did not get an answer, he assumed he was rejected. At an earlier point in the film, he is crying in front of Angie saying that his whole life is a lie. Angie, then, remarks that why did he not go and say it to her. Ferdie says he feared rejection, but Angie again showing her wisdom says, "Lekin puchenge nahi, to pata kaise chalega ki vo kya kehti?" Even later, he is hesitant to go and find Fanny and it is only Angie who convinces him to do that. Later, Angie says the same thing to Savio. When Savio confronts her by saying that she married Gabo only because he asked first, she replies because he never asked. Both Ferdie and  Savio had immense love for their lovers but their hesitance and fear in expressing love became the cause of their despair. Ferdie spent 46 years waiting, and Savio went away quietly to Mumbai and did not get married for six years. Although it seems Savio might have had physical relationships between other women, but observe his disappointment when Angie says that she will not tell about them to Rosie but would continue their sexual escapades. He wants that love to be reciprocated. Perhaps that also explains why Ferdie and Savio are such good friends. At one point, when Ferdie dreams about Fanny, he is wearing the same sunglasses as that of Savio, demonstrating some more linkages to their similar nature. Later, when Savio is taking a piss after Ferdie misguides them, he says, "Nikal raha hun us bloody idiot (Ferdie?) ko apne system se," as if he is taking out the inner Ferdie that is in him showing more connections between them. There is another fabulous moment in the film. At one point, when they all are waiting at the railway crossing, both Ferdie and Savio tilt their face to the left and then to the right at the same time with the same movement. It is such a beautiful moment that conveys so much. Waiting for the train to cross, just like both of them waiting for love to come in their lives. They first look to the left, and then to the right, as if they finally got to know what is the right turn.







Same Sunglasses





Later, this right turn again comes into play. Savio asks Ferdie where is that 'right turn' to Tivoli. The 'right turn' is of course a metaphor for the right direction in their lives. After a few moments, they do take a right turn and enter into a different state. They wanted to go to Goa but somehow, entered into Karnataka — a different 'state'. But this change of state is not only literal, but also mental as the dialogue says, 'a bloody mental state'. And, it is in this changed mental state, these people experience a transformation, confront their demons, and finally, come to terms with the truth of their lives. Ferdie experiences a change in state where he finally realizes, "Wait karne se kuch nahi milta, dhoondne se milta hai," and then embarks on a journey all by himself to find Fanny. Also, as Rosie remarks, "Pehli baar Ferdinand apne baare me nahi balki dusro ke baare me soch raha," signifying another change in him.   





Angie also gets to experience a change in her state where she gets some sexual gratification. She also tells the truth to Savio about the real reason of Gabo's death which she has hid from everyone. Savio, as well, experiences a change in state where he tells the truth about his failed life in Mumbai where he was a waiter and did not make much money. He never told this to anyone before as well. Both Angie and Savio confront and discuss their complicated and unspoken relationship that was left incomplete six years ago. The biggest change in the state comes for Rosie. Don Pedro convinces her to let him paint her, and he paints a portrait of her. He says he will awaken the soul that exists within her beautiful body. When he finally paints her, he realizes that he was mistaken in recognizing her. She might be magnificent to look at but she is completely empty from inside. She has no soul and he had to make one for her for the painting. The expression on Rosie's face is a terrific piece of acting that conveys her wretched state so powerfully. It was as if the facade that she was putting up has been exposed just like the way she is standing with her clothes taken off, and being painted naked. She has nothing to hide now, and she now needs to accept her loneliness and move on with life. Don Pedro humiliates her in the worst possible way, but this mortification will help bring a change in her state. She finally undergoes an emotional outburst on reading Ferdie's letter and speaks her mind out about her son who should have never died. She also starts showing feelings for Ferdie. Perhaps, she always had those for him, like the scene earlier where she admonishes Ferdie for injuring his hands by bringing yellow roses. Thus, there is a transformation in Rosie's mental state and she begins to accept the truth of life. In an unrelated mention, it is interesting that Dimple Kapadia has been painted by someone again after Dil Chahta Hai.





There is another interesting aspect in the film which tries to show Rosie's state of mind. Rosie owned a cat named Nereus. She loved the narcoleptic cat a lot. There is even a portrait of the cat in their living room. Was Nereus a replacement for her dead son? Just like Gabo died suddenly and freakishly in his wedding, death came instantly to Nereus as well when he was thrown out of the window. It is Angie who goes to pick-up the dead cat and brings him to the car so as to not hurt Rosie who will be shaken by Nereus' death, like the way Angie has to live her life after Gabo died perhaps because she cannot leave Rosie to live alone. Angie is even crying after his death, like she would have when Gabo died. Just like they carry the dead cat with themselves in the car, Rosie carries the memories of her dead son. The dead Nereus was a metaphor for her dead son. For instance, look at the scene where Angie is left standing as a widow in front of the tree and we see that a cat goes away from her, just like Gabo goes away from her. Later, Savio when accused of being selfish by Rosie, remarks Nereus is 'as dead as your bloody son'. It is worth noting that conversation of dead cat precedes Rosie's emotional outburst that Gabo should have never died, again pointing to some connection. It is when Savio tells the truth about the dead cat, they bury him, again, perhaps, referring to the fact that Rosie has to let go of her past, bury those things that are holding her back, and move on, and let others move on. She also finds love in Ferdie later. There is another interpretation about the cat which I am not able to justify completely though. Could the cat also be referring to Rosie's ego? At an earlier point in the film, Angie had remarked that Nereus suffers from narcolepsy and that he sleeps at the strangest of times anywhere. Rosie remarked that she should leave Nereus alone because next, she will be telling her that how much should she sleep? Was this metaphor of sleep referring to Rosie's inability to see the reality and she was trying to run away from the truth by putting a pretense of sleep? Recall in the car, it is Rosie who is sleeping, just like Nereus; was this referring to her sense of 'false pride' as Savio remarks that she is trying to avoid seeing the reality? And, in the end, when they finally bury the dead cat, she has buried her ego and moved on? I am not able to entirely convince myself of this interpretation but this could be thought as well, right?



Gabo runs away, like the cat runs away





Burying the past



My favorite character was Angie. As I have written before, there are some people who look more beautiful when they cry and Deepika is one of them. I can see her pictures of crying all day. She has such poise and grace that she makes sadness beautiful. She is wonderful in the film. I loved it that all the times in the film when she was alone, she was listening to music from her cellphone, and untying the knots of the earplugs. I counted so many times when she did that as if trying to untie the knots of her own life. What kind of music would she be listening? Adele, Bob Dylan, or Pink Floyd? I would love to see her music choices. Deepika brings an ethereal charm to Angie, just like an angel.





Untying the knots of life

However, there are some things which I am still trying to make sense of but am completely unsuccessful. At one point, they all go to the Russian's house; the guy asks Don Pedro what does he want. Don replies that he is looking for an umbrella, and the Russian replies, "This morning Stephanie Fernandes ran away with his umbrella." A few minutes later, we see Angie sitting with an umbrella. I just could not understand this umbrella reference. I am not very adept at identifying references from foreign films and I am sure this has some connection to a film, else why would Don ask for an umbrella? I thought about what could it possibly mean but could not find any convincing answer. 




Does umbrella mean protective love?

Also, later, Savio remarks that his father left him '20 dentures, 10 shirts, 5 pants, 3 socks, 2 underwear, and one crumbling house.' Notice the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20 - what is that about? And, the dentures—a set of artificial teeth—for what?

In an interview, Homi Adajania says, "Besides, I grew up very influenced by Márquez, Camus, Kundera, Allende — the visions of those small towns are in my head; you can smell the walls and know everybody’s business." That explains why he named Angie's husband as Gabo, after Gabriel Garcia Márquez who was also popularly called as Gabo. There are mutliple references to Shakespeare as well in the film. But the biggest influence in the film can be seen is that of Wes Anderson. I have not watched many Wes Anderson's films but some things in Finding Fanny puzzled me and I just could not find answers, and read Homi's interviews. The name that popped up most often was Wes Anderson. In his latest movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson kills a cat; here, we have Homi killing Nereus. Anderson has been known to not have an affection for dogs and cats in his films. Also, there is an underwater shot in all of Anderson's films. So, we have an underwater shot in the film's poster in Being Cyrus, and two underwater scenes in Finding Fanny, too. Finding Fanny has a distinct Latin American feel to it, there are paintings that appear to be inspired from artists of that region. 


It is also worth noting that everything associated with Rosie has a rode. All her dresses have a rose print in them. Her house has curtains, table clothes and wallpapers with roses. Even the tea cup has roses. This reminded me of another of Dimple's role, Neena Walia, from Luck By Chance, where everything associated with her had flowers, too. More on that terrific film here.  


Rose Dress


Tea Cup


Wallpapers and Curtains

There is immense grief and pathos that people in Finding Fanny carry with themselves but the film's message is to not to keep on waiting but rather find something. It is people who die but love remains, so, look for love, look for happiness, look for closure. "Log marte hai, pyaar nahi, haan baat to vohi hai ki life khatam hoti hai, love thori, vo to hota hai kahin na kahi, bas use dhoondna padta hai, chahe tumhari har wish ka sikka kue me gum ho jaye, chahe darwaze pe koi letter tumhara intezaar nahi kar raha ho, apni adhoori kahani ka end dhoondne ke liye khud hi ko nikalna padta hai." We are responsible for our own happiness because no one else will come to complete our love story. We will wait 46 years, and nothing will happen. It is the journey that is most important. Death can come suddenly, like it came for Gabo, like it came for Nereus, like it came for Don Pedro. If we don't take the control of life, life will show us the middle finger, like the young boy showed it to Savio, every time he passed by. It is only when he speaks to Angie, the boy smiles at him, and life will also start smiling on him. Life is like the imported blue car in which they travel. If you don't use it, it will get rusted. Our life will get rusted the same way, and then, sometimes, it might be too late because then, as Savio says, "Pahunch ke bhi nahi pahunche," even after reaching, we will not reach. So, we have to find love. As Angie remarks, "Kabhi kabhi pyar ke liye na thori koshish karni padti hai." Will you try to find love? Will I try to find love? Will we all try to find love? Will we all be able to find love? Only time will tell.


Life will show the middle finger


But if we try to find love, life will smile at us


Else even after reaching, we will not reach


So, we need to make an effort to find love

Dialouge of the day:
"Kabhi kabhi pyar ke liye na thori koshish karni padti hai.
— Angie, Finding Fanny


P.S. — The best article that comes close to identifying the film's theme is this. Also, I saw the film in Hindi because English DVD was not available. A lot is lost in translation, so would not recommend it in Hindi.  

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