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Culture

The Fakir’s Extraordinary Journey - Indian charmer Dhanush comes to France

media Poster for the French release of Ken Scott's The Fakir's Extraordinary Journey Brio Films

A colourful fast-paced movie with international appeal premiered on Wednesday in France. The Fakir’s Extraordinary Journey stars Dhanush, who is bound to charm audiences in France and elsewhere in Europe,.a long way from his usual fan base in what is known as Kollywood - the south-east Indian city of Chennai.

The Fakir’s Extraordinary Journey is an adventure film about chance.

It's full of one-liners and unlikely encounters and dance routines, in a hot-air balloon, in Paris, Rome, Mumbai, the UK, Spain and a desert where the hero enchants would-be migrants.

“I’m a fan of Monty Python,” director Ken Scott has said and it shows in several hilariously irreverent scenes.

Franco-Argentinian actress Bérénice Béjo of The Artist fame, features, and US actress Erin Moriarty plays Dhanush’s love interest in a storyline high on cute cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Bérénice Béjo and Dhanush make a wish in Rome in The Fakir's Extraordinary Journey directed by Ken Scott, May 2019 Brio Films/Sony Intl

French actor Gérard Jugnot, makes an appearance as a Parisian taxi driver who “tells fortunes from the traffic jams” and Somali actor Barkhad Abdi, plays a savvy would-be migrant; both contribute to the strong global flavour of the pic.

The international make-up of the film cast mirrors the story which mocks borders. Scott, who is from Montreal, is full of praise for his actors.

Dhanush, who, according to one informed website, is known in Tamil-language cinema as the Bruce Lee of Kollywood, is the constant, as the action jumps from place to place, situation to situation.

Speaking of the memorable dance sequence with nimble Béjo, who plays the Fakir’s wealthy and quick-witted benefactor, Scott says “Dhanush has been in 35 Bollywood films, he knows all the dance moves. Bérénice got the rhythm and worked really hard. She was remarkable.” Sequins and all.

The Fakir’s Extraordinary Journey, in cinemas in France from 31 May, is based on a novel by Romain Puertolas called The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe.

Franco-Indian coproductions

Dhanush and Scott were special guests at an India Day at the Cannes Film Festival, where they shared champagne and the limelight with a very different film - Nandita Das’s tragic biopic, Manto, which was selected for the Un Certain Regard section. The title role of the the maverick 20th-century writer Sadaat Hasan Manto, is played by Hindi film hero, Nawazuddin Siddiqi.

“These two films are very symbolic of a new generation of Indian producers, I think. Both are coproduced by young women from New Delhi or Mumbai,” said Isabelle Giordano, the executive director of Unifrance, the French film export agency which cohosted the event.

“This year … it seems that more Indian professionals want to do more coproduction with France."

With French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to India earlier this year, "India is a key partner now for us,” she commented.

One of the goals in the growing cinematic relationship between France and India is to encourage “more French films on platforms, as digital is the key word for the distribution of French films”, Giordano said.

Film France, which provides information for film shoots, cohosted the India Day at Cannes, as Giordano said that another goal is, “to convince some Indian producers to come to France, for shoots or for post-production or music”.

The Fakir may have the power to make Unifrance’s wishes come true. Franco-Indian-Belgian coproduction has won a leg-up from influential Sony Pictures International, the local-language production arm of Sony Pictures.

At the time of writing, The Fakir’s Extraordinary Journey is set to be released in a dozen European countries - including the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain and Sweden - in June, July and in December. Scott says UK and US releases are pending.

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