For all of the fans of IKEA and their catalogue, director Ken Scott’s adaptation of Romain Puértolas's novel, The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Stuck in an IKEA Wardrobe is the film that will make you celebrate the Swedish superstore. A serendipitous adventure for a young magician (fakir) from the streets of Mumbai is a film for the romantic who might wonder what would happen when Bollywood meets Hollywood in an international furniture store.
Ajatashatru "Aja" Lavash Patel (Dhanush) may come from humble beginnings, but with the love of his mother, a natural ability for street performance, and a fascination with a Swedish furniture catalogue, he can rise above his situation. After a family tragedy, he decides to leave behind the streets where he was raised and with only a fake 100 EUR and a passport, the young street performer heads off to Paris to find his estranged father.
Upon arrival in Europe, he decides to start his adventure in his fantasy world of IKEA. As he walks through the displays he manages to meet a woman named Marie Riviere (Erin Moriarty), an American businesswoman who happens to be in the right room at the right time to discover the magic that Aja has to offer. The two part after taking time to enjoy the various collections and dreaming of what could be and promise to meet at the Eiffel Tower the next day.
As the store closes and with no money, the young Indian tourist decides to sleep in a wardrobe within the superstore. During the night the piece of furniture with an innocent passenger on board is shipped to England, where he is mistaken for an illegal immigrant. Due to his precarious situation, English immigration decides to ship him off to Spain which begins his extraordinary adventure around the European continent. With Marie on his mind and the goal to reunite with his father, Aja does all he can to get back to Paris.
Since the lead character is telling this story to some wayward youth as a series of flashbacks, it is difficult to separate reality from hyperbole. With a mix of Hollywood and Bollywood added to the storytelling, this becomes a magical journey that will force the skeptic to suspend disbelief and allow yourself to be swept into the narrative. Between the charisma of the rising star of Tamil cinema and an underlying desire to see him reach his romantic goal, it is easy to forgive the unbelievable nature of his adventure.
Even though it is evident that Romain Puértolas's story is meant to address the plight of immigrants around the world, the screenplay manages to balance out the politically charged elements with enough fantasy to make this an enchanting experience. This is the type of film that requires the harshest critic to turn off their need for reality and to embrace the spellbinding storytelling and come along for the ride.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir will make audiences laugh, cry, maybe even consider having a go at Bollywood dancing and then ponder the human side of the immigrant. Ken Scott's film is not meant to be taken too seriously, but it will provide something that seems to be missing in cinema this year, a fresh and compelling adventure that will have people leaving with a smile on their face and an underlying desire to go shopping for dreams at IKEA.
Bio and image Russell is an American ex-pat who has been transplanted in his new home of Sydney. He is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and the blog Russelling Reviews. He moderates events called Reel Dialogue (reeldialogue.com) which connects the film industry with the general public.