Fairy Folk Review: Unlike Anything You Would Have Seen Before

Fairy Folk Review: Unlike Anything You Would Have Seen Before

A poster of Fairy Folk. (courtesy: rasikadugal)

Its weirdness quotient is extremely high but its steadfast resolve to cock a snook at established practices of Bollywood storytelling sits pretty on Karan Gour’s second narrative feature Fairy Folk. The quirky and provocative magic realist film is rooted in the here and now – in the home of a married couple – even as it wends its way whimsically into uncharted territory.

Working with one of the oldest themes known to cinema – the man-woman relationship in the institution of marriage – Gour and his two exceptionally accomplished lead actors, real-life couple Rasika Dugal and Mukul Chadda, come up with a free-flowing and affecting dissection of a marital union gone off the rails and struggling to rekindle the spark of yore.

More witty than wild, more rock-solid piquant than hardcore trippy, Fairy Folk is independent to the core in spirit, substance and execution. To cap it all, it isn’t in the least self-conscious in the way it crafts a marriage story that plays out in a zone where anything is possible because the actors are free to let their instincts take over as and when they desire and the script, written by Gour himself, has room aplenty for innovation.

Gour’s first film, the critically acclaimed Kshay (2011), too, was set within the confines of a marriage. Using understated, even unstated, methods, it explored a woman’s yearning for something that is beyond her and her husband’s means. Fairy Folk carries on in pretty much the same vein, adding a streak of cheeky creative adventure to the enterprise. It is a delightfully unpredictable exercise that draws its strength from a story that pushes boundaries and a bunch of actors who go with the flow.

Gour, a music composer and sound designer whose credits (besides his own Kshay) includes NH10 and Titli, brings his sense of rhythm to bear upon Fairy Folk. It is reflected not only in the way the film unfolds but also in the numbers that he studs the soundtrack with.

Dugal and Chadda, speaking a mix of English and Hindi in the way that urban couples in India do, are absolutely outstanding. They do a fabulous job of adding subtle and mightily beguiling layers to performances built upon the unexpected turns that their jaded relationship takes.

Ritika (Dugal) and Mohit (Chadda) run into a ‘creature’ on a secluded road in Mumbai – a completely deserted space in a megacity is itself a conceit that can exist only in realms of a quasi-fantastical nature. The creature has human form, has no genitals, does not move until touched and eats mud and worms. All this is until Mohit begins to draw the being out of its stony stupor.

Although the actors – the supporting cast includes Nikhil Desai as the silent creature (there comes a point when ‘it’ breaks into perfectly intelligible Hindi) and Asmit Pathare and Chandrachoor Rai – appear to be improvising as they go along, what stands out above everything else in Fairy Folk is the firmness of the logic of the words they speak, the actions they perform and the many transformations they undergo.

Ritika and Mohit encounter the strange creature when their car breaks down, forcing them leave their private vehicle and hail a cab online – another metaphor for the couple stepping out of a known, comfortable space. The being follows the couple home.

Breakdown is the operative word here because it isn’t just a car that has stalled. The unforeseen and improbable situation that forces Ritika and Mohit to confront a reality that stares them in the face outside the safety of their effete environs – they, of course, have no way of knowing what they are in for – is the key twist in the tale.

It happens at the very outset of the film but the shadow that the encounter casts lasts all through the film. The creature that comes home is the elephant in the room that Ritika and Mohit can no longer ignore. But do they really know what has gone missing from their lives and that they need to address it?

It is not clear until the film is about one-third of the way in that Fairy Folk is about a mildewed marriage that has fallen into the trap of dead habit. It is disrupted in ways that neither the onscreen couple nor the audience can imagine or instantly comprehend. The film thrives on constantly defying expectation.

On the face of it, there seems to be nothing grievously wrong with the couple although a palpable frostiness has crept into how they engage with each other on a day-to-day basis. Their words suggest a tinge of fatigue. Communication between the two seems to ricochet off a hard-to- penetrate wall and then hang imperceptibly in the air around them.

It is at night and in the middle of nowhere that Ritika and Mohit find themselves face to face with something that shakes up their existence completely. Genuine affection and passion – the two attributes that have ebbed out of their lives – are pitchforked into a series of tangential and spontaneous discussions of the sort that the two had stopped having.

It takes a pair of astoundingly untrammelled performances and the support of a secondary cast keenly aware of the bewildering directions that the tale is heading in to give shape to Gour’s marvellously flexible, fiercely uncompromising approach to the anti-story at the heart of Fairy Folk.

The 100-minute film holds firm all the way thanks to a writer-director aware of the medium’s suppleness and a pair of actors acutely aware of the extent to which the litheness of their craft can liberate them. Watch Fairy Folk. It is unlike anything you would have seen before.


Rasika Dugal, Mukul Chadda, Chandrachoor Rai, Asmit Pathare, Nikhil Desai


Karan Gour

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