Homi Adajania: Love and longing in Goa
After Parsis, the director finds lovable eccentrics in the Goan Catholic community for his forthcoming film ‘Finding Fanny’
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Opinions about Homi Adajania are divided neatly down the middle, which is hardly surprising since he is only two films old. The adventure-sports fiend turned film-maker in 2006 with Being Cyrus, a wacky comedy set in his own Parsi community and featuring a bunch of eccentrics who derive their happiness from undercutting each other. Cocktail, made six years later, was a formulaic and conservative love triangle that saw Adajania floating uncomfortably in the mainstream.
Finding Fanny sees him back in his comfort zone—also known as cuckoo land. Set in Goa and following another set of mavericks (this time Goan Catholic) who set out on a journey to find a mysterious woman named Stephanie Fernandes, Finding Fanny might just prove right an old belief about film-makers—the first film is usually a pure expression of creativity, the second is a marketplace compromise, while it’s only in the third that a discernible style and attitude come into view. Featuring Deepika Padukone, Arjun Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia and Pankaj Kapur, the English-language movie opens on 12 September. Edited excerpts from an interview:
What made you set ‘Finding Fanny’ in Goa and among the Goan Catholic community?
Which part of Goa did you focus on?
From the northern tip all the way down to the south. In fact, just the fictitious village of Pocolim in Finding Fanny was shot over various places, including Saligao, Parra, Assagao, Aldona, Socorro, and Cortalim, where I pieced together different visuals to make it feel like one place.
The idea of a road trip bringing out the best and worst in people is a well-travelled one.
I never saw it as a road trip though it very obviously is. In my head, the structure was more in keeping with, say, Jack Nicholson’s As Good As It Gets, where the characters embark on a trip in the narrative but it isn’t predominantly a “road trip” film. Though after I showed it to some random focus groups, I found that everyone just wanted to get on to the journey and didn’t have the patience to immerse themselves into a place where nothing really happens and the people…well, they just exist. I don’t know how I have tackled anything. I don’t over-analyse stuff and just tell stories from my gut.
Going by the trailer and the songs, ‘Finding Fanny’ seems to be in an off-kilter, broad and, may we call it, Parsi theatre register of humour. Will non-Parsis and non-Mumbaikars get it?
This is a universal story about love and longing. It’s pretty layered if you want to peel away, but even if you watch it flat, it is entertaining. I don’t think that people will find Goan Catholics a minority as unfamiliar as the Parsis. The dark stuff is thrown away so shamelessly that it takes a subtle sensibility to really get that. Else, it works across the board as a quaint and entertaining story.
The movie has a high-wattage cast for what seems to be a low-vibe comedy. How did you get the actors to wind it down?
Various sessions and workshops and then a month before shoot, nothing. Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) and I had to figure out how to make his character vulnerable and borderline idiotic until he grows a spine, so we worked on the body language and him speaking in a mid-range voice rather than his natural baritone. I needed to work with Arjun (Kapoor) a little more as his idea of throwing away a dialogue or performance and mine were dramatically different. Initially he was, like, “But now I’m doing nothing at all!” Though once he realized that this was exactly what I wanted, he achieved that effortlessness of just being.
Dimple (Kapadia) and Pankaj (Kapur) are loud characters, so the main concern was to sustain a consistency. And finally Deepika (Padukone) was very easy because we share a great understanding. She just knows how to interpret what’s in my head, however bizarre that world may be.
This is your second collaboration with Kersi Khambatta after ‘Being Cyrus’. Why do you like working with him?
Kersi has an incredible sense of satire and a fabulous grasp of the language. I write out scenes and send them to him to incorporate the dialogue and he sends it back in a novelistic style—each scene is like a chapter in a book. The material I get back has so much colour and nuance and that inspires me to change the complexion of the scene.
For example, I asked him to write his take on Deepika’s character Angie and this is what he came up with: “One might ask, someone as lovely as her, how come her feet never picked themselves and just walked out the door? Go somewhere, throw herself at the world and take what came? She never knew how. Lovely Angie, her feet and her brain never read the instruction manual on how to work themselves. She just took out the batteries and stayed.”
Do you mostly keep your distance from Bollywood?
They probably keep their distance from me! No, I love the industry and consider myself very lucky to be a part of it. It’s just that I also do various other things (a scuba- diving instructor, freelance writer, currently promoting an adventure sports portal, etc), so people are under the impression that I saunter in, make a film on a whim and then go lie on some beach for a couple of years. I will probably be making two films next year…then I am definitely going to be lying on an island for a long time after that!
Fanny means one thing in British slang and another thing in American slang. Why choose that name?
Why not? It has a nice ring to it. It’s a legit nickname. If the film was about looking for some guy called Richard and I had called it “Finding Dick”, would you have the same issue? We can’t start letting slang used in other countries dictate what we would want to call our films.
Should audiences watch the English movie or the Hindi dub?
English! It has been shot in English. That is the natural language that the characters speak. The Hindi version has been dubbed by the actors. The reason for that was a studio decision to make it accessible to a non-English- speaking audience as well.
Finding Fanny releases in theatres on 12 September.
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