It is rare when you know a character's name throughout the film, but you only get to see them at the end of it, and surprisingly the entire plot is designed to reach that character. I am pointing towards one of the finest Deepika Padukone movies, which sadly doesn't get the hype it deserves, Finding Fanny directed by Homi Adajania and written by him and Kersi Khambatta.
The movie is set in the tiny village of Pocolim in Goa. Freddie, played by Naseeruddin Shah is a postman, and Deepika plays Angie, a well-wisher of his and a young widow. They're joined by Dimple Kapadia as Angie's vivacious mother-in-law, Pankaj Kapur as Don Pedro, a perverted painter and Arjun Kapoor as Angie's forbidden love, Savio. Well, many of us do not have the confidence to confess our love to someone, but this Goan postmaster did, as he wrote a letter 46 years ago to the love of his life, Fanny, asking her hand in marriage, but the wait was long for a reason, as he finds out, she never received the letter. Now will he dwell in despair, knowing that the woman he has spent his whole life loving, never knew about his feelings, or will he go on a mission to find her?
It's rather funny and ironic, how a postmaster's letter doesn't get delivered, but here we are. The movie is drenched in offbeat humour and absurdity, which makes us question, is there really a hero or a heroine in the movie? Or are we just looking at a flock of flawed fools on a mission? The movie is layered, and we don't know what to expect, but at the same time, we're not at the edge of our seats. The colour, the styling, the scenic views of Goa allows us to sit back and enjoy this bumpy ride. There's something about road trips that gets everyone excited, and it's rare to just be sitting, focussing on what's happening now and not on what's about to happen, and in many ways, Finding Fanny is just about that. We never know if these five characters will eventually find Fanny or not, we're just happy to be there.
While the world we live in today, has almost 8 billion people, there's probably thousands of ways that people perceive love, and the movie shows us a few of them.
"Ek tarfa pyaar" or "one-sided love" is one type of love, that is both painful and beautiful to experience. Painful because you're investing your heart in someone without receiving anything in return, and beautiful because you don't have to share, you're allowed to swim or to sink, all alone. When Freddie receives his letter back, he's confused and that's where Angie comes in. She orchestrates the road trip, saying to Freddie, "Do you want to die never knowing what happened to the only person you spent your whole life wanting to be with?". He hilariously replies, "No, I don't want to die", but he does get the point, and this is where the movie gains its momentum.
When we think about love, 'selfish' is one of the last words to come to mind, so can love really be selfish? Pankaj Kapur has the answer for you, as he personifies the character of Don Pedro. He is one perverted painter who keenly observes Rosie throughout the movie. He fetishises and paints her as an exaggerated form of the female figure, only to shun her after he gets what he wants. Don Pedro is the personification of our forbidden romances, as he tries to get what he wants from love, even if it's a temporary and selfish infatuation. His end in the movie is funny as he gets rolled over to the wrong side of the road, and no one seems to notice or care, even though they're traveling in his car.
There are love stories, that end before they even start but the characters in these stories are still tied with each other, through long, thin, yet strong threads of longing for each other. Angie's and Savio's story is what exemplifies this. Angie's husband 'Gabo' died on the day of their wedding after an unfortunate, yet funny, incident with the wedding cake, and she remains a virgin widow. Savio was Gabo's best friend. We wonder throughout the movie, if both of these characters had feelings for another, what forged their feelings, forbidden? It's the fear.
While Madhubala quite proudly said "jab pyar kiya toh darna kya?" meaning "when you love, why fear?", we still tremble with terror when it comes to asking if the person we love reciprocates the same feelings. During the course of the movie, we get to know that Angie married Gabo only because Savio never asked her to, and that she was in love with him all along.
Despite there being multiple capable actors in this ensemble, other characters tend to fall dull when Deepika Padukone enters the frame. She nails her role as Angie, and there's a song of sadness that rings in her ears even when she tries to smile. After watching her in Race 3 in 2013 where she sported designer dresses, this movie was like a breath of fresh air. She wears light and beautiful clothes, styled eloquently by Anaita Shroff Adajania. She personifies the morning sky, which can get unexpectedly clouded with despair. There's something about Deepika Padukone in Goa that just feels right to me, and as she absorbs Angie's character so deeply, we cannot imagine anyone else playing the character. It's rather extraordinary how she has marked a niche for herself, that harbours no niche in itself. She can play the role of a Bengali woman with as much ease as she can play the role of a Goan woman, a gangster, or a queen.
The movie still hasn't been able to reach its target audience with its full potential, and I hope that happens someday. It will leave you with mixed feelings, and not allow you to assign it a genre, at least on the first watch. The movie can be described best in one word, 'quirky'. It has the perfect amount of humour while having dark undertones through these moments. It may make you chuckle even at the most serious moments and is backed up by its amazing soundtrack. Towards the end of the movie, we realise that the elaborate road trip was just a hollow dream, and Fanny herself is reduced to a metaphor.
You wouldn't expect these five characters to ever get together under the roof of one car, but the quest to find Fanny somehow makes that possible. The quest itself tells a tale and uncovers ideas of love that maybe even the characters didn't know. So, is the movie really about finding Fanny? Or is it more than that?
In the end, I feel like, not only the mission to find Fanny, but the characters and even the audience are a metaphor. We're all a pool of thoughts, unsaid prayers, and sinful desires, that simply co-exist. We spend our entire lives looking for these ideas. Love comes down to one holistic sentiment, of finding oneself and one's idea of love, because if we don't know who we are, and what love is, are we even capable of feeling this strong emotion? As Angie says herself "no one deserves an incomplete love story", so what remains is finding ourselves before we go looking for our Fanny.