Film Review: 'Fan'
Opened: 15 April 2016
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Waluscha de Sousa, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku, Sayani Gupta
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Producers: Aditya Chopra
Ironically, for a film titled Fan, the buzz on this Shah Rukh Khan film has been relatively low. Whether that was Yash Raj's strategy all along is unclear, but either way, I went in into the movie with virtually nil expectations, and came out... Exasperated.
What initially is an engaging, (even if a little pompous and self indulgent) thriller at its onset, spectacularly tumbles like a block of un-cemented bricks in its second half, despite a strong performance from Khan after what seems like an eternity.
As a film, Fan isn't entirely that original. Placing your idol on a pedestal and behaving like a man possessed for their validation is a theme that's been explored on celluloid countless times before. Robert De Niro was obsessed with Wesley Snipes' stellar baseball player in the 90's thriller, co-incidentally also titled The Fan. Similarly, in the late 90's, a small town, baby faced Aftab Shivdasani was besotted with Urmila Matondkar's out of reach, mercurial movie star in Ram Gopal Varma's somewhat autobiographical Mast (Varma always admitted to being besotted with Sridevi), and heck, even Khan himself, has played the obsessed psychotic in many a film, notable among them being Yash Chopra's Darr or Rahul Rawail's Anjaam, both of which if you grew up in the 90's, get their nudge nudge wink odes here.
How then is Fan different? Well for one, despite throwing virtually no surprises at the viewer in terms of screenplay, the core difference here is Khan plays both stalker and stalked, the former with unequivocal aplomb and the other with a stagnating, smug predictability that one seems to associate with most of Khan's recent works. Unsurprisingly, it's his portrayal of the unstable Gaurav, that's bound to win him appreciation here, purely because it's a performance that gives him wider scope as an actor. Of course, many would argue that Khan is just playing himself – he's infamously known to be self centred and narcissistic and therefore being besotted with himself must have come all but naturally to him. I however, didn't think that was the case at all. He's given Gaurav so many layers that, dodgy prosthetics and iffy CGI aside, it's hard not to empathise with him despite his inappropriate and borderline creepy fascination with the lofty movie star also enacted by himself, and a character he clearly seems to be sleep-walking through.
Fan poses some interesting and smart questions, but never quite seems to have the answers to those questions, which is a little frustrating. Why probe into a complex subject if you're not sure how to resolve it? As such, the film desperately wants to be a dark subject that delves deep into an adolescent psyche, one that's entirely relevant in this day and age, where thanks to social media, stars have become more accessible to the common man. But does that accessibility necessarily give us the right to have unreasonable expectations from stars we seen every Friday on 70mm? Because their job is to entertain, does it give us the right to his/her personal space? It's a point that's open to debate, and Fan attempts to make the audience empathise with a superstar's life, but inadvertently fails at doing that, because here our heart goes out only to Gaurav's plight, a small town lad with big dreams, rather than the hard nosed superstar who seems to have the perfect existence, but projects otherwise.
Coming back to the plot, Fan revolves around small town Delhi-ite Gaurav Chandra who aspires to meet superstar Aryan Khan, an actor he's idolised since childhood. He finally manages to make it to big bad Mumbai, but his hopes are dashed, when despite getting to meet his idol, things don't turn out quite the way he'd hoped, and he returns home dejected and humiliated, his dreams crushed and with an altogether different perception of an icon he'd placed on a pedestal his entire life. Subsequently, he decides to flip the tables in a bid for revenge and goes on a vendetta against the superstar to make him repent and succeeds to a large extent, until his plans are foiled.
If Fan has anything going for it it's the fact that it somewhat marks Khan's return to form – as Gaurav he unleashes a flurry of emotions reminding us that when it comes to raw talent, he has oodles of it, even if he chose to put on the back-burner for a while. He's helped immensely by Maneesh Sharma's handling of the script and screenplay, initially at least – Sharma's forte has always been to make us connect with the small town underdog. But that ultimately proves to be the film's undoing too, because in the process of making us eminently warm to Gaurav, he doesn't quite manage the same connect with Aryan, and perhaps Aryan's story needed fleshing out a bit more, even if, Khan is essentially playing himself. Also, the first and second half of the film feel like entirely different films, while the first has us hooked, the curse of the second half strikes, with numerous WTF moments which will make you feel cheated and make you wonder why you invested in Gaurav in the first place. Additionally, because the film is ultimately about SRK every other character in the film suffers – I'd love to have known a bit more about Gaurav's parents or his fondness for the girl next door who spurns him to follow her dreams stateside. In fact, the plot could have easily devoted some screen time to Gaurav's life in his little colony instead of the endless chase sequences which get both exhausting and make you restless after a point, striking cinematography notwithstanding.
Still despite its discrepancies and bloatedness, there are parts of Fan that are engaging. It takes a backbone for example, to poke fun at yourself and here Khan does it sportingly – whether it's a dig at his prominent nose or a self deprecating jibe at how he performs and ass kisses at wealthy weddings just to fill his own pockets. It's clever and the film needed more of that self awareness and intelligence, rather than being turned on its head in a bid to keep within commercial constraints by playing it safe.
There were whispers that Khan wasn't entirely happy with the way Fan had shaped up and it's obvious why. There are some smart ideas here, that needed to be delved into a little more – for example the worrying fascination that fans have with their idols, or even how stars themselves strive for a near normal existence (Zoya Akhtar did it rather well in the underrated Luck By Chance), but rather than focus on those, Fan just turns out to be a tirelessly stretched, wasted opportunity that could have been so much more, and that's such a darned shame. It's not unwatchable by any means and SRK fans will inevitably revel in it, but because it promised to be so different, it's hard not be a little underwhelmed by it. As such, I'm going with two and a half stars.