Review: Fans & Falling Stars
For the megawatt charisma of SRK version 2.0, one will have to wait for another day, and a much braver movie
Sonali Ghosh Sen Delhi
In India we don’t just put our stars on pedestals. We deify them, bow to their giant cut-outs and slit our wrists for them. Being a fan in India is serious business and being a star even more so. You have to repeat all those mannerisms, the dialogues and the dance moves in your movies, till it filters down to the lowest common denominator – the fan who will copy, act and live all those moves. Shah Rukh Khan, over his 20-odd years of stardom, has perfected being a ‘star’.
For most SRK fans, what makes Shah Rukh Khan that much more relatable, more real, is that in rooting for him you are not a cheerleader for a wealthy South Bombay star kid – like Salman Khan or Ranbir Kapoor, whose Bollywood lives seem way out of your stratosphere. You are following someone with whom you could have had ‘samosa and jalebi’ at ITO after a long day at office. You are basically channelling an ordinary middle-class Joe who could have been you.
Yash Raj Films and director Maneesh Sharma tackle the complexities of a star-fan relationship head-on in the new SRK blockbuster, Fan. Gaurav Chandna (Shah Rukh Khan) is obsessed with Aryan Khanna (also Shah Rukh Khan) whose rags to riches life mirrors that of the real-life Shah Rukh Khan. That I have used ‘Shah Rukh Khan’ three times in a single sentence could very well have become the main problem with the film – it could have turned into a narcissistic ode to the Delhi boy who made it big in Bollywood.
Thankfully, both director Sharma and scriptwriter Habib Faisal steer clear of that particular plot-hole and create an incredibly relatable underdog in Gaurav Chandna, whose love for his star is as real as any other. He will do anything to meet his star – dance like him at Dussehra melas, pepper his room with the star’s posters and even hang out of a speeding train to prove his love. The fan also showcases Shah Rukh Khan the actor. Even with prosthetics and an overbite, he makes you believe in the character, making him refreshingly different from the Raj and Rahul characters he has been playing ad nauseam. And as if taking a dig at himself, he makes Gaurav an Aryan Khanna chameleon, who doesn’t look like him but can eerily transform into him with a few moves.
One only wishes that Faizal and Sharma had etched the other Khan…er…Khanna as well. The star in the film wears his stardom heavily, and with almost cardboard cut-out perfection. It’s almost as if the filmmakers have invested so much in the Raavan that the Ram in the story pales in comparison. Having played many an anti-hero on the screen and walked away with the plaudits, Shah Rukh Khan should have realised that when he plays hero and villain, he could make one of them end up looking like Sunny Deol in Darr!
And that’s what Aryan Khanna becomes – transforming from a vaguely disturbing egotistical, arrogant superstar to the dignified noble hero with the perfect family life, maturity and wisdom that filters from reel to real. This character arc from grey to golden is difficult to understand.
The movie derails because it is difficult to comprehend Gaurav’s extreme obsession. Especially when the reason for his adoration looks like he might have come enclosed in a bubble wrap from the myth-making PR machine of Shah Rukh Khan himself
The movie also derails because it is difficult for the audience to comprehend Gaurav’s extreme obsession and the way he unhinges and goes on a rampage when the object of his affection refuses to acknowledge him. Especially when the reason for his adoration looks like he might have come enclosed in a bubble wrap from the classical hero, myth-making PR machine of Shah Rukh Khan himself.
What is interesting is that the movie reflects the conflict of the on-screen avatar with the off-screen one of Shah Rukh Khan. Here is an actor trying to reinvent himself but the audience seems unwilling to let go of what made him famous. On the one hand, you see a conscious effort to wipe out everything that has made him a star – he erases the trademark dimple, the six-pack abs, even the songs and heroines, and seems strangely bereft of his star power as a result.
It also seems that Khan is trying very hard to woo a new generation of fans without losing out on his ageing fan demographic, that is, trying to straddle two platforms, but with little success.
A grouse with most Yash Raj films of recent times has been that they bravely try to experiment (for instance, Shah Rukh Khan in Rab ne Bana De Jodi) but they do not push the envelope enough. Fan has the same failing, it is also a film that dares to experiment with one of India’s biggest stars, yet seems to get cold feet halfway maybe precisely because it’s daring to experiment with one of India’s biggest stars.
Sharma’s deft touch comes alive mainly in the Delhi scenes, where he gets the language, and, more importantly, the body language right. He flails for balance anywhere else, be it London, Mumbai or Dubrovnik. The supporting cast is good, but with two Khans in the movie, they remain just that, little sub-plot players propping up the big man.
Not that we are complaining. Two Shah Rukh Khans for the price of one is a surprisingly pleasant experience. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to prop up a not-so-great film.
So, what Fan gives us is the half-baked satisfaction of a superb performance that showcases Khan’s acting prowess, but to get the megawatt charisma of SRK version 2.0, one will have to wait for another day, and a much braver movie.