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'Fan': An Enthralling Return To Form For Shah Rukh Khan

19/04/2016 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
Actor Shah Rukh Khan, left, poses for photographers with his Madame Tussauds wax figure in central London ahead of the launch of Khan's new film 'Fan', Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Directed by Maneesh Sharma and produced by Aditya Chopra under the banner of Yash Raj Films, Fan stars Shah Rukh Khan in a double role. He essays the parts of a Bollywood superstar named Aryan Khanna and his lookalike Delhi-based fan, Gaurav, who calls himself Junior Aryan Khanna. As the title suggests, the movie follows the fan Gaurav as he undertakes a train journey from Delhi to Mumbai with the hope of personally greeting his idol Aryan on the occasion of his 48th birthday. Gaurav purposefully travels without a ticket on the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express just as Aryan Khanna famously did before attaining superstardom. Gaurav also makes sure that he stays in the very room of the hotel Aryan bunked in the very first time he came to the City of Dreams, Mumbai.

When Aryan fails to reciprocate the feelings of Gaurav, he discovers that hell hath no fury like a fan scorned!

On Aryan's birthday, Gaurav is unable to go past the security outside Aryan's bungalow. The best he can do is to watch him from a distance just like other fans who he considers somewhat beneath him. But, Gaurav is hell-bent on meeting Aryan Khanna face-to-face so that he can show him the trophy he won while imitating his idol in a local acting competition. He also wants to treat him with the famous sweets he brought from the Ghantewala Halwai in Chandni Chowk. When all his efforts of meeting Aryan go in vain, he orchestrates a master plan to impress his beloved superstar. But, Aryan doesn't take too kindly to Gaurav when he learns about what he has done to impress him. Gaurav feels betrayed and cheated by Aryan's coldness and takes it upon himself to teach him a befitting lesson so that no star ever dares to take his fans for granted. What ensues is an exhilarating game of cat and mouse between the fan and his once beloved idol. Only this time it is the star chasing his fan gone rogue.

Fan doesn't back down from taking swipes at the established notions of fandom and stardom. The movie taps into the boiling passion that drives a fan. It is this passionate following that makes a star out of an ordinary person. But when a person begins to attain stardom he quickly begins to take his fans for granted. He feels that they are no longer important. While the movie encourages the fans to have other more meaningful pursuits in life, it also warns the stars to be more responsible to their followers. When Aryan fails to reciprocate the feelings of Gaurav, he discovers that hell hath no fury like a fan scorned!

While the events depicted in the movie may require the viewers to suspend plenty of disbelief, Fan successfully drives home the point that fans maketh the stars and deserve respect from their idols. At the same time, it reminds us that it is as important for the fans to give stars their personal space.

With Fan, SRK seems to have finally found his lost mojo, interestingly while once again essaying an anti-hero.

Aryan Khanna is the easier of the two characters that Shah Rukh Khan gets to play in the movie, in the sense that he is closely modelled on SRK himself. Fan begins with archive footage from the public appearances that Khan made during his early days in Bollywood. We get to hear the bold statements he made about how he sees only himself as his competition. That he wants to rule the Mumbai film industry for many years to come. We get to see clips from his movies and live performances. SRK arrived in Mumbai a couple of decades or so back with the hope of becoming a superstar. He was full of self-belief-- it takes the heart of a lion and the mind of a fox to survive the merciless film industry. SRK, to his credit, hasn't merely survived but has managed to thrive for the last 25 years, becoming a brand in himself. He became the nation's heartthrob in the '90s in spite of doing some highly unconventional movies like Darr, Baazigar, Anjaam, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, etc. In fact, playing the anti-hero became his USP. Although he has only grown in stature since then, his later performances certainly pale in comparison to his work in the '90s. Post the mid-2000s, he has been coming across as a spent force and his most recent performances have been all about embracing clichés. With Fan, however, SRK fortunately seems to have finally found his lost mojo, interestingly while once again essaying an anti-hero. What also stands out is the lack of romance in the film, a big departure from other SRK starrers. It must have taken great courage to take up such a challenge at the age of 50. But, it seems to have paid off. In terms of sheer intensity and flair, this dual performance can be placed right next to his turns in Dil Se, Darr and Chak De! India. Kudos to him for carrying the movie entirely on his shoulders!

What starts off as a light-hearted comedy suddenly takes the form of a dark thriller in the second half...

Overall, Fan proves to be an enthralling cinematic experience that makes us experience a rainbow of emotions. The movie serves as a powerful example of cinema's influence on society and individuals and is reminiscent of other classic fan-gone-bad tales such as Misery and The King of Comedy.

Fan also proves to be director Maneesh Sharma's best work till date. How he succeeds in completely shifting the movie's tone at the halfway point is truly commendable. What starts off as a light-hearted comedy suddenly takes the form of a dark thriller in the second half; while some viewers may not appreciate this sudden tonal shift, it certainly succeeds in differentiating the movie from the run-of-the-mill offerings from Bollywood.

The VFX team of Red Chillies Entertainment needs to be congratulated for ingeniously enhancing Gaurav's prosthetic look through special effects. The team seems to have outdone what it achieved in Ra.One. The movie's cinematography, editing and music are also noteworthy.

The ending of Fan can at the very least be described as clever. Sometimes, it is more important to be clever than perfect.

Fan has a lot of memorable sequences but the scene that stands out is the one wherein Gaurav deceptively enters into Aryan Khanna's house and ends up trashing up all his trophies and memorabilia. What distinguishes a great filmmaker from an average one is that just when the former has things under control, he succeeds in delivering a perfect closure. The ending of Fan is far from being perfect and may disappoint some but it can at the very least be described as clever. Sometimes, it is more important to be clever than perfect. Fan is a movie that needs to be watched. After all, we all admire someone or the other!

Rating: A -

A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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