Movie Review: Fan

April 15, 2016

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Indian movie fan is a strange species. He will stand outside his favourite actor’s house for hours just to catch a glimpse. Others may bathe a life-size statue in milk. And some passionate folks give up every vestige of their lives to be known only as fans.

Handout still from the film "Fan"The Indian film industry has acknowledged these fans, but always from a distance. Like the evocative scene in Zoya Akhtar’s “Luck by Chance”, where Hrithik Roshan looks at his adoring fans through a car window, Bollywood has always kept the ones most passionate about their craft at a distance.

Director Maneesh Sharma rolls down that window and takes us to the other side in “Fan”. Gaurav Chandna, a young man obsessed with actor Aryan Khanna (both roles played by Shah Rukh Khan), is carefully built up — from a young man who stares longingly at his idol’s hoardings and imitates him, to a man possessed who will do anything to exact revenge on the man he once loved.

Sharma and writer Habib Faisal get a lot of Gaurav’s characteristics right – the high-pitched giggle when he realizes he is talking to his favourite actor, and the indignation when his friends ridicule his idol. And then, just as we get a sense of this man and what drives him, Sharma rolls up that window and slides into what is essentially a cliché-ridden Bollywood potboiler.

Unable to meet his idol, Gaurav threatens the actor’s rival, makes him apologise to Khanna in a viral video, and messages the actor to say this is his gift to him. Khanna soon realizes Gaurav doesn’t understand the concept of right and wrong and hands him over to the police. Hurt by this betrayal, Gaurav lets his anger fester before it manifests itself in an ugly way, setting him on a path of vengeance that can only end badly.

Handout still from the film "Fan"From here on, the script gets increasingly ridiculous. The film’s makers would have you believe that an actor can get police to unofficially detain a man and torture him for two days. They would have you believe that in a country which forgives and defends a Bollywood star accused of running over a man in a drunken haze, that Khanna’s movie career is over because of a stray brawl and a complaint of misbehaviour.

In spite of the difficult-to-believe plot and the seemingly simplistic portrayal of how a Bollywood star functions, “Fan” does have a big thing going for it. Shah Rukh Khan puts in what is his best performance in many years (not surprising, since all his films in the recent past didn’t have too much acting potential), scraping through layers of prosthetics and make-up to get to the heart of Gaurav and the legions of fans who frequent his own house day in and day out.

As Gaurav, Khan is both child-like and menacing, almost a hark back to his “Baazigar” and “Darr” days. It is a beautifully studied portrayal, and Khan manages to get under the skin of the very same people he must be used to waving at from a distance.

What hampers him is the one-dimensional character of Aryan Khanna. It is almost as if Sharma and Faisal spent all their time on Gaurav and wrote Aryan in at the last minute. For all the promise it shows, “Fan” ends up as a disappointment for its unwillingness to explore the complicated, at times unfathomable relationship between an actor and his fans, and for reducing it to an average thriller.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay and Tony at@TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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