Directed by Kanishk Varma, ‘Footfairy’ is a serial killer police procedural thriller that might work for you if you have already not watched its inspiration from Bong Joon-ho’s magnificent ‘Memories of Murder.’
I am not particularly opposed to the idea of ‘retelling.’ However, retelling without utilizing the scope of changes comes across as a duplication of efforts. ‘Footfairy’ primarily suffers from that malaise.
It is not like Kanishk Varma tried to get away with the inspiration. He definitely ensured we got to know his appreciation for the original. Scenes of ‘Memories of Murder’ were played on television when the lead detective, played by Gulshan Devaiah, ponders the case at hand. But the appreciation is a little too much for the film’s good. It is not only the crux of the events but also how those scenes are constructed is too similar to ‘Memories of Murder.’
Varma, however, chose not to incorporate some of the complexities that ‘Memories of Murders’ had. There is no humorous inter-departmental struggle in ‘Footfairy.’ The conflict of methods between the local cop, Park (played by Song Kang-ho), and Seo (played by Kim Sang-Kyung), a detective from Seoul, is not present here. There is only one lead detective, Vivan (Gulshan Devaiah). Varma’s choice is safer not to try his hand at infusing dark humor amidst such a grimy tale. It took some dexterity and a lot of subtlety from Joon-ho and co-writer Shim Sung-bo to find the perfect balance of humor and eeriness in ‘Memories of Murder.’
Gulshan Devaiah is at his earnest best, to be honest. He is a good actor, and he does not falter here. Even some of the flatter dialogues seem to come alive when delivered by him. Sagarika Ghatge (of ‘Chak De India’ fame), who plays Vivan’s love interest, Devika, could not do more with her limited scope. Her character was written quite frivolously, thus restricting Ghatge’s chance to shine. Kunaal Roy Kapur plays Joshua, the prime suspect of the story. He seems to be slightly miscast here, as he hardly effuses the hint of guilt that we saw from his counterpart of ‘Memories of Murder,’ Hyeon-Gyu (played by Park Hae-il). Kapur reeks of innocence, which undercuts the assured conviction of Vivan’s investigation.
Footfairy (2020) Movie Summary and Plot Synopsis:
‘Footfairy’ starts in accordance with norms set by every serial killer movie. With an establishing killing. In Mumbai, A young girl is seen stalked by a hooded figure after she gets off at a station and is subsequently killed. The killer saws the feet off the dead girl’s legs. Something that allows him to brand himself the moniker ‘Foot Fairy’ at later stages. Akin to the fabled ‘Tooth Fairy.’ Investigating officer Vivan Deshmukh (Gulshan Devaiah) is under pressure as the count of victims starts to rise.
After following up with one or two suspects yielding unsuccessful results, Vivan and his team act on the notion that the killer might show up at the one-year anniversary memorial of the first victim, and so the killer does. However, Vivan and his team could not make most of that opportunity, and the killer scarpers. The chase through the alleys of Mumbai ends fruitlessly for Vivan.
As the stakes start to get higher and higher, Vivan gets a helping hand from an unlikely source. His girlfriend, Devika (Sagarika Ghatge), casually tells him that she has heard about a restaurant owner with a foot fetish. Although her intention was merely spreading gossip, Vivan does find that tip quite helpful. One search on the Internet reveals that multiple women, who have visited that restaurant, have complained about the owner looking at their feet too intently for their liking. Add to that, three of the victims have been reported to visit that same restaurant at various points in their lives.
Vivan, who relies more on his instinct as he proclaimed, feels that the restaurant owner, Joshua (Kunal Roy Kapur), is their new prime suspect. Ignoring the protests of his subordinate officers, Vivan comes hard on Joshua while trying to interrogate him. But he could not do much without a warrant. Thus Vivan sets a trap for Joshua. Vivan selects one of the young girls who has commented about Joshua’s foot fetish. The young girl is to make an appearance at Joshua’s restaurant, make sure Joshua notices her, and then follow a treacherous path home, both literally and figuratively. Vivan and his team would follow her throughout with the intention of catching the killer red-handed.
However, the killer does not show up, much to the frustration of everyone. When his subordinates start to ask him to concentrate on other suspects, Vivan gets another helping hand. A witness says he has seen the killer, as described by police. And he identifies Joshua as looking like whom he had seen as the killer. Although the witness does not seem too sure, it was enough for Vivan to get a search warrant and arrest Joshua.
Footfairy (2020) Ending Explained: The Identity of the Killer
The arrest of Joshua does not go as smoothly as Vivan hoped. They find no conclusive evidence at Joshua’s house, and Joshua continues to deny being the killer. As Joshua’s attorney reminds of the lack of evidence the police force has, Vivan has to let Joshua go. However, he does notice some scratch marks on Joshua’s arms. Remembering some of the nails of the second victim’s body being broken, Vivan asks to exhume the remains of that victim in the hope of some skin sample under the nails.
As the police wait for the DNA results to come back, the killer strikes again. This time, it is the young college girl Vivan has befriended. His neighbor, for whom Vivan bears some paternal love. Enraged and determined that Joshua is the one who killed the girl to take revenge on him, Vivan sets off to Joshua’s house and brutally beats him up. He might have killed Joshua if not for the intervention of his subordinate officer. The officer tells Vivan that the DNA results came as inconclusive.
Seven years go by, and Vivan is no longer in Police; possibly, his unsanctioned beating of Joshua took his job. He married Devika and lived in Bangalore with a child. The killer was never caught. He comes to Mumbai to attend a funeral. While going back to the airport, he notices the old spot where the killer dumped the body of the last victim, Vivan’s young friend.
He stops the car, gets out, and takes a moment to look at the spot. A child interrupts his reverie and says that another man stopped here and looked at the seemingly insignificant spot with the same dazed look just a couple of minutes ago. The child asked that man too, and that man replied he had dumped a suitcase in that spot. Vivan asked the child to describe the man, but the child said that the man looked normal, like any other man. This confirms that the man the child is referring is none other than the elusive killer.
Just like its inspiration, ‘Memories of Murder, ‘Footfairy’ also keeps the ending open. However, the impact is not the same as that of the Bong Joon-ho film. ‘Memories of Murder’ largely referred to the real-life killings of the Hwaseong murders. The killer of the Hwaseong murders was not identified when Memories of Murders was released. When Park (Song Kang-ho) looked through the camera after hearing the killer passed the same spot and looked like any other man, it was Joon-ho’s statement to the killer, breaking the fourth wall. Park looked at the film’s audience as the real killer could have been in the audience.
‘Footfairy’ does not have any such fourth-wall-breaking implications. When Vivan looks at the camera, it means the killer is once again lost in the sea of thousands of people traveling through Mumbai’s busy stations.