FAN is a movie that sucks you in only to spit you out with a stronger reflux. It has many things going for it and would have had many, many more things had the makers decided not to take a detour mid-way; or at least, keep the detour to a minimum. One can read FAN as a reflection and celebration of ‘The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan’ and ‘The Entire World of a Shah Rukh fan.’

Throughout, there are references galore to the journey of SRK from Delhi to ‘Deewana’ to ‘Main Hoon Na’ to dancing-at-weddings. They are peppered throughout and are up for grabs for those that can connect and relate to them. There are many directorial flourishes here. Maneesh Sharma gets together with a superstar having his origins in Delhi – and of course the one who wears it on his sleeve—and provides a thoughtful glimpse into manic fandom of a middle-class star-struck fan, financially content running a cyber-cafe.[There is a finely staged fight-scene between SRK and a few colony-bullies in the initial scenes. Does this remind you of SRK’s constant ‘दिल्ली का लड़का हूँ; हाथ पैर घूमाके फ़ैसला सुनाना आता हैं|’ harking?]   The star SRK’s alter-ego is named Aryan Khanna {Aryan is SRK’s son’s name; take out the ‘na’ in Khanna it becomes a Khan}. SRK’s spirit and life hover ALL along the film and the director merely channels the spirit into a character-superstar and a character-fan: In the sense that in many emotive moments of the fan, you see the SRK of yore when he was weaving himself into becoming a syllabus for obsessive roles; and in the many moments of the super-star Aryan Khanna, you see Shah Rukh Khan the star. The film starts off with a shot of DEEWANA and as the credits and age of the fan proceed, it stops somewhere at the fag end of ‘90s. The rest of SRK’s journey is conveyed smartly against a project-screen with Gaurav Chandana, the die-hard SRK fan, re-living SRK’s trade-mark moves for the Dusshera audience – and winning the trophy year-after-year— in Inder Vihar, Delhi. The film then basically takes it forward from where  Amitabh  and Kashyap’s ‘Murraba’ ended. Amitabh gets the Murabba [here Gaurav gets sweets from a famous Delhi eatery] in ‘Bombay Talkies’ and the fan is convinced and happy irrespective of the difficulties endured. Here, the fan ‘considers’ himself rejected since the star doesn’t even give a hoot about giving 5 seconds of his life to his fan – let alone 5 minutes.

After landing in Bombay—even Gaurav’s first-time-in-Bombay is handled uniquely; there are obviously lustrous shots of the Bandra-Worli sea-link, the Taj, the Flora Fountain  but, but, the back-ground music is almost comical, as though laughing at the obstinacy of Gaurav’s journey to meet his idol. Gaurav gets involved in an episode when he takes it upon himself to teach a lesson to a ‘young’, up-coming ‘Kapoor’ actor who is hell-bent on taking legal action against Aryan Khanna since he slapped him in a party [Kunder-gate anyone?]. Oh by the way, Aryan slapped him since he had the guts to flirt with his wife after drinking expensive red wine at his home! [Amitabh/Khalid anyone?]. Gaurav is expecting Aryan to be thrilled but is heart-broken when he realizes that his idol is the one who gets him imprisoned and beaten. Their meeting at a police station is one of the most thrilling moments in this film – albeit the best and arguably, the last one. SRK is great as Aryan and Gaurav in this scene. You see a ‘stardom-weary’ SRK explaining ‘practicalities’ to Gaurav. But Gaurav is just ecstatic upon meeting his idol only to realize soul-crushingly that Aryan, too, is capable of insensitivity and lying— Gaurav gets up and imitates Aryan and paraphrases one of his kiss-and-thumbs-up routine comments: फँस हैं तो मैं हूँ; फँस नहीं तो मैं नही; in other words, being human {jeez; Salman Bhai coming into play here—too much meta in this film}—as the star explains in the penultimate scene. The fact that Aryan isn’t willing to consider even 5 minutes of his life for a ‘fan’ crushes him and Gaurav just drowns his life into an OCD of ‘fan versus the star.’ From here, the film just ventures onto the thriller format and that proves to be its downfall. All the ‘meta’ is butchered at the feet of this literal genre-jump and all that lies next is the cat-and-mouse game between a fan and a star with disastrous consequences.

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.

As I said before, there are fine garnishments in this movie worth savoring. On a call with his parents, Gaurav superbly conveys his disappointment by just saying that there is an ocean of humans between Aryan’s Mannat and him; his shouts and words travel, but never reach there. [It’s only the fan standing next to him realizes and hears the ‘intensity’ in his voice.] There is a laugh-out-loud scene where Kapoor, the Hindi film-actor is asked to read a letter at knife-point and he sheepishly replies, ‘Dude, this is in Hindi.’ Hilarious! There is subversion here where a Hindi film ‘hero’ is made to look like a, well, a coward when faced with a real-life threat. [Remember RGV’s Company? The 6-packed ‘Khan’ seeking police-protection and cowering in-the-face-of underworld threats?]. Gaurav’s exuberance and enthusiasm when embarking on his trip to meet Aryan is infectious. He tells his Dad not to pack many underwears since there would hardly be any time to change them! There are Delhi-isms galore and really fun. ‘खाना खाने थोड़े ही जा रहा हूँ? मैं तो झहप्पी देने जा रहा हूँ!’ says Gaurav when asked about food. ‘हाँ आप स्टेज पे बोल दो और सारा सियापा ख़तम कर दो’| says his father to Aryan. In the scene where Gaurav lands up in front of Mannat the first time, he tries to get in by taking a selfie with the security guard and then explains how he is ‘different’ from social-networking fans by enacting a couple of scenes from Aryan/SRK’s movies. He enacts, but the security guard just goes about his job. That’s a fine scene conveying that the world goes on in a tangent for SRK/Aryan and his employees, but for Gaurav, the world starts and stops in Aryan’s movies. In one of the scenes, Aryan says that he will deal with things himself as he has done ALL his life since the fan is getting unruly [reference to ‘outsider’, no-Godfather SRK anyone?].

SRK is in his elements as both the super-star and the fan. The exuberance of the fan versus the worldliness of the super-star is quite nicely conveyed by him. One gold-standard take-away from this film is that SRK has just bared himself as a super-star in this movie. He lets you in into what it means be SRK-the superstar: Not Amitabh the super-star; not Rajnikanth the super-star; not Salman, not Aamir, not Dilip Kumar. SRK the super-star doesn’t hesitate to dance at business-men’s daughter’s weddings. The business-man is rude and admonishes him that superstars like him take everything for granted, they hey come late; they think the world of themselves, blah, blah. “I am paying you a bomb. You better make it worth”, says the business-tycoon. Aryan simply takes in the insult and replies, ‘Of course you are the one who can pay the bomb! You won’t regret it.” He then goes about mechanically dancing and pleasing the wedding guests. This is what I meant by SRK – the superstar. He is just announcing: This is me; I dance at weddings for money. I am ‘sankhi.’ I use foul language. Deal with it.

The VFX is patchy [buck-tooth visible in some scenes; absent elsewhere]. In some scenes, it is clearly repulsive when in others, it comes out quite well. The film is technically very savvy – except as mentioned, for junior SRK’s prosthetic [Jr/Sr – Abhishek/Amitabh anyone?].

The only question is – at what point does the fan in this film’s fit to be considered a medical disorder? At what point do you take a Rajnikanth’s ‘fan’ to the hospital? After he burns himself or lays on a track thanks to him not getting a 1st day 1st show 1st seat ticket to a new movie or before? At what point would one consider a fan ‘certifiable’? Or can than even be considered?
























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