We live in a country, where cinema isn’t treated as just another form of art, but as a form of sustenance. The common man sees a film as a means of escape from what he may consider a dreary life, packed with problems and tensions, and for a couple of hours, he’d like to forget it. Adding to that, most Indian movies are larger than life, and nothing ends up larger than the performances of our leading men.
There is a devil may care attitude towards life’s googlies (on screen at least) and no problem is so big that it can’t end with everybody smiling as “The End” pops up on the screen (For the most). But are these celluloid demigods really infallible? Are their lives as easy and awesome as they seem to us, the adoring public? Are they not allowed their “me time” as much as we are? And the most important question, as much as they owe their stardom to their fans, do they owe their life and privacy too?
Gaurav Chandna (Shahrukh Khan) is a devoted fan of the superstar Aryan Khanna (ShahRukh Khan) and has grown up worshipping his every move. Much to the exasperation of his loving parents (Yogendra Tiku and Dipika Amin), he has not achieved anything of note in academics, and is content with running a cyber-cafe in their West Delhi neighbourhood. Although he is mildly smitten by the sweet natured girl next door (Shriya Pilgaonkar) who has set her heart upon flying off to the USA, it is Aryan who occupies his consciousness, all of the day, and all of the night. But a chance meeting with the Superstar turns Gaurav’s life upside down, and he emerges from it, vowing to pay Aryan back. In this clash between a man, and a fan, who will come out on top?
As the opening credits roll, one can’t help but smile, as we see SRK’s career being chronicled in 3 minutes, especially his interviews from the 90s, when he was still floppy haired and had the airs of a typical Dilli ka launda, as opposed to the slightly wrinkled, sophisticated, yet roguishly charming King Khan that we see ruling the airwaves, splashed across all forms of media. And for most of the first half, we see the familiar Maneesh Sharma touches, where he narrates the story of someone who could be one of us. But towards the interval, there is something different at play. The director makes use of the same Bollywood excesses that he’d eschewed in his earlier directorial ventures. And it’s never more evident than through most of the 2nd half, where the tonal shifts are absolutely jarring.
While the first half is reminiscent of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi – a rather droll, yet insightful and affectionate take on the line between a man and stardom, the 2nd half descends into a mostly chaotic and extremely dark take on the extremes that a fandom creates, and appropriates the style of Abbas Mustan with the whole cat and mouse narrative, which can be construed as an affectionate shout out to one of SRK’s biggest hits, Baazigar.
As for SRK himself, well, the King Khan lords it over everybody here. After a series of rather indifferent ventures like Chennai Express (Watchable), Happy New Year (Terrible) and Dilwale (Inexcusable), where it seemed like he was just going through the motions, and focusing more on box office returns, Fan is where the SRK of old time comes out to play. It has been a while since SRK has been this uninhibited on screen, and it is a reminder of just how much fun it is to watch him cut loose and really dig his teeth into a performance, the kind we can never hope to see from the other 2 Khans.
Be it as the devoted fan, Gaurav, who descends into a rage fuelled madness (even though he may remind you of Andy Serkis as Gollum at times), or as the grizzled star, Aryan (the more understated and nuanced performance), who just wants to do his job, and go home to his family, he is in top form here. A mention has to be made of Yogendra Tiku, Dipika Amin and Shriya Pilgaonkar, who are absolutely fantastic in their roles. As for Waluscha De Souza and Sayani Gupta, they really don’t have much to do, and therefore don’t really register.
Technically, the movie is as slick as any YRF product. Cinematographer Manu Anand makes sure that the audience are in the midst of the action throughout and the dialogues by Habib Faisal and Sharat Katariya gel beautifully with the characterizations. But the screenplay, while tight enough to keep you occupied throughout, has its share of flaws. And it is disappointing as we have come to expect more from Maneesh Sharma, Habib Faisal and Sharat Katariya as these are the chaps behind cinematic gems like Band Baaja Baaraat, Do Dooni Chaar and Dum Laga Ke Haisha. But the editing by Namrata Rao ensures that there’s hardly a dull moment in the movie.
Overall, Fan is a rather enjoyable watch, for fans of Shah Rukh Khan more than anybody else, but, ultimately is a slightly underwhelming execution of a brilliant concept.
I am wondering if BBB was a fluke by Maneesh Sharma. It was as if makers decide midway, we want to make it a thriller mid- way. If they wanted to focus on FAN, clearly there failed to create an empathy for Gaurav or backstory. I would have enjoyed thriller part, was willing to ignore the loopholes, but it failed to garner any interest or any urgency in me. All 3 action scenes i felt was repetitive.
And here is where the film’s irrecoverable fault-line lies. If the intention of having a VFXed SRK at 50 play a 25 year old is NOT just a visual trick in a book but to go meta [is a fan but a reflection of the star?], why change tracks mid-way and maneuver unintelligently into the thriller track? The problem with the film jumping onto the thriller track is that the entire novelty, philosophically, of having a look-alike is kind of defeated! Replace Gaurav with a character that doesn’t look like SRK and the thriller element STILL works. You don’t really need an Aryan Khanna look-alike—yes of course, I understand it aids the ‘thriller’ parts where one can impersonate another but to what end? [By the way, Korean action directors and teams have handled the action here – so one can guess the importance given to the action and thriller element here]. And I am not even going into the debatable ludicrousness of this cyber-shop owner from Inder Vihar being able to take on police officers in Bombay or being an excellent fighter or making calls on burner cells or getting in and out of countries that would make him as stealthy as Jason Bourne. This part, I am quite happy to dismiss as incidental to the plot and focus solely on the dynamics between a superstar and an obsessed fan.