Faster Fene: Riteish Deshmukh's production brings beloved Marathi fictional character to screen

Avinash Ramachandran

November 09, 2017 10:57:19 IST

For movie lovers who wish cross linguistic boundaries and watch regional cinema, fellow aficionados are usually the first port of call for recommendations. However, these recommendations seem only to cover the classics or 'offbeat' movies and rarely (if ever) encompass 'commercial' movies.

Staying in Mumbai finally presented an opportunity to look past a Sairat or Court, with Faster Fene (popularly called FaFe) — posters for which recently appeared all over the city, even as buzz about the film grew on social media. "Who is Banesh Fene?" people wondered.

A still from Faster Fene. YouTube

A still from Faster Fene. YouTube

Watching a Marathi movie, with no idea of the process behind bringing alive one of the most beloved Marathi fictional characters can be a blessing. Unburdened by knowing how the characters have evolved from their original literary representation, without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, it becomes easier to see Faster Fene in its bare-bones version.

Director Aditya Sarpotdar and screenwriter Kshitij Patwardhan take a somewhat safe route and make this film a sort of origin story for Fene. It gives a strong base to build a franchise from here.

When Banesh Fene (played with impish innocence by Amey Wagh) moves from the town of Baneshwar to Pune for his medical entrance exams, he stays at his ajoba BR Bhagwat's (Dilip Prabhavalkar) house. Circumstances bring him close to Bhu-Bhu (Shubham More) who is the Topshe to this Marathi Feluda and in the company of a journalist friend Aboli (Parna Pethe), the trio get involved in solving a crime that hides a major scam. The suicide/murder of a fellow medical student is the point from which FaFe soars as a movie to organically lead to a critique of the education system in India. As the investigation progress, Fene comes face-to-face with the man behind the scam — Appa (played by National Award winner Girish Kulkarni).

FaFe works on multiple levels, with the most effective one being its ability to remain believable even during some audacious sequences. With Fene being a teenager, the stunts don't go overboard and there is no unnecessary machismo. He gets beaten up, flung across the breadth of the screen and is nearly drowned in a tank. His dogged persistence and never-say-die attitude keep him on track in the investigation.

FaFe is a simple movie that is content with gently scraping the surface and avoids delving deep into issues. For instance, when Fene faces a "why-we-do-what-we-do" conundrum, a simple explanation by Aboli as to why fighting for the right cause comes with a price and in most cases a cloak of anonymity, is enough to resolve his dilemma.

The movie then moves briskly towards unraveling all the knots with the usual tropes of a detective movie, right from the face-offs between the primary characters to the "don't-you-want-to-know-how-I-did-it" monologue from the criminal mastermind at the denouement. FaFe is predictable, but never boring. That is probably why a septuagenarian reliving their childhood or a 14-year-old putting a contemporary face to the names to the stories, can enjoy the movie equally.

There is a constant thread of humour that runs through this film, with peripheral characters like Tutu, Temple Run and Ambadas leaving the audience in splits while also pulling off interesting plot devices. With impressive production values and an engaging background score, the only drawback in the movie is possibly the ease with which Fene carries off his investigation. Everything happens too easily for this teenager, especially in this time and age. There is nothing that leaves him bothered for too long — or even just long enough to wipe the boyish smile off his face.

Appa, the menacing villain, seems to let Fene off the hook very frequently. There is no consistency in the portrayal of Appa who orders assaults on hapless people with ease and yet struggles to stifle the voice of a teenager. This strikes a jarring note, especially when it is established pretty early on that Appa knows all that is there to know about Fene and is a man who never issues empty threats. If such inconsistencies are not dwelt on further and are overlooked, it is only because Kulkarni plays Appa with a sense of manic pleasure. It might be easy to root for the righteous hero in a book, but for the same to be extended to the on-screen version, the presence of a well-rounded villain is an important requirement. And FaFe wouldn't be half as impressive if not for the character arc of Appa. He might not be the Moriarty for this Sherlock, but he is effective nonetheless. One of the most well-written villains in recent Indian cinema, he also gets to deliver the best lines of this movie. Kulkarni as Appa holds the movie together, and many-a-time overshadows Wagh who is impressive in his own way in the titular role.

However, this works fine as Fene is constantly the underdog in the story, even though it is clear as to who is going to come out trumps towards the end of the movie.

There are enough things happening on screen to avoid any dull moments in this 130-minute movie. The duration itself is a godsend for this genre and brownie points to FaFe for avoiding songs. This might not be an edge-of-the-seat thriller that leaves you astounded, but it is certainly not a movie that lets your attention wander.

Faster Fene is not a Fandry or Natrang that will make it to the list of 'Marathi Movies to Watch Before You Turn 37 ' or something, but it is certainly a film that can open up Marathi cinema to a wider audience and that is more than what many regional movies releasing Friday after Friday manage to do to for their respective industries.

Updated Date: Nov 09, 2017 10:57 AM