There is a scene towards the end of Maneesh Sharma’s Fan where Aryan Khanna, the invincible superstar, appears fazed for the first time. Mired in legal troubles, Khanna is in his make-up room, getting ready for a stage performance. “I haven’t received the script yet”, he remarks to his secretary. Grim faced, she tells him that show has been cancelled due to massive protests against him. Aryan walks to the dim-lit stage and stares at the empty gallery. The setting is opulent, and the lights are glitzy, with his giant portraits in the backdrop. But his face betrays his fear that this could be the beginning of his fall from glory.
It is for scenes like this – well-written and executed – that Fan stand out. The film, a meta movie about movies, is centered around two characters – a star and his greatest admirer, both roles played exceptionally well by Shah Rukh Khan.
Unusally for a Khan-starrer, Fan starts off dark, and gets darker.
The most fascinating part of Fan is that it pits Khan against his own former self. Gaurav Chandna, the obsessed fan, is eerily similar to the roles Khan used to play during the initial years of his career. The psychotic killer, masquerading as a lover, in Baazigar. The jilted lover in Darr. The fey characters who could blend and disappear in a crowd, be vile and vulnerable, and afford to lose the game at the end.
Aryan Khanna is more or less a real life version of Khan. The stellar career, murky controversies, the sea-faced residence, the way he greets his fans from the make-shift podium outside his house, the king-sized life he leads – Khanna is uncannily familiar.
“I compete with myself”, says the star in an interview, and that statement becomes ominous when his greatest fan becomes his worst enemy. A cat and mouse game ensues, at the end of which no one really wins.
Khan plays the role of Khanna with ease, but what surprises is his portrayal of Gaurav. It’s not hard to imagine the kind of fervour with which he must have grabbed the film. Not everyday does Bollywood offer such opportunities to its superstars – A film in which one can be both a star and an actor. The prosthetic make-up and VFX hides Khan’s trademark dimples and the curve of his nose. But what really impresses is the distinct voice modulation Khan has used for the character. And after a long time, the star puts his eloquent eyes to work.
Gaurav resembles the overtly romantic lovers who write letters dipped in their own blood. His adulation for Aryan borders on insanity. Actor Vineeth played a similar role in Maanathe Vellitheru, a 1994 Malayalam film, and veteran actress Saritha played a similar role in Julie Ganapathy, a 2003 Tamil film directed by Balu Mahendra.
What differentiates Fan from these films is that it doesn’t make Gaurav into a crazy psychotic. His parents think he is a harmless youngster, who has the potential to be a star performer; his friend loves him, and finds his obsessive adulation completely normal. Gaurav’s obsession with Khanna has stark sexual undertones. Although he is shown to be interested in a girl from his neighbourhood, his real fixation is with the actor. His pursuit of Khanna and his vengeful behavior are a jilted lover’s cry for attention.
Even when Gaurav is going all out to bring down Khanna’s empire, the latter considers him a rogue fan, and nothing more. He even tries to reason with him. And taking this too far, he tries to handle Gaurav himself, chasing him through London and Delhi; and the sloppily written sequences hurt the movie in the second half.
The sound department of Fan deserves a pat on their back. The renowned composer Andrea Guerra’s background score is brilliant. Listen to that foreboding tune that accompanies the scene that precedes the closing credits. The storm has passed, yet Khanna isn’t the same man any more. Guerra articulates Khanna’s tensions and fear through perfect pieces of music.
The only other actor who gets some screen-time and dialogues in this film is Sayani Gupta, who plays Khan’s secretary. This talented actress, who was last seen in Margaritta With A Straw, has great screen-presence. Look at her holding her own against Khanna’s curtness with her dignified smile and glares.
Fan belongs more to director Maneesh Sharma that to its writer Habib Faisal. Sharma’s direction keeps the viewers on the edge throughout the film, and doesn’t let them think about the glaring logical flaws in the story. Right from the beginning, where the characters are introduced, to the climax and post-climax portions, Sharma retains the thrill, without slipping into the traps of Khan’s much-celebrated charm. Instead, he effectively puts to use Khan’s infamous cockiness and the darker sides of his stardom.
The Fan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.