Fan (2016): There is a better story hidden in there somewhere

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There was a time when I used to be excited about my favorite movie stars doing double roles. All this began when I saw Shankar’s Indian for the first time. It starred Kamal Hassan in a dual role and it blew my mind. After that, I started hunting down every film that he had done and I was overjoyed when I found out that he had done a film called Apoorva Sagodharargal (Appu Raja in Hindi) where he played not just two but three roles. For a while, it used to be one of my favorite films. And then there is Avai Shanmughi (Chachi 420 in Hindi) and Aalavanthan (Abhay in Hindi). But those days are gone and after seeing many other actors do the same thing – Vikram and Rajnikanth being two prime examples – I was not interested in that kind of cinema anymore. Even Hassan’s recent Dasavatharam failed to do its magic.

Anyway, fast forward to 2016 and we have another superstar – the biggest of them all, for many – doing a similar film. The actor is none other than Shah Rukh Khan and the film is Fan, directed by Maneesh Sharma. It has SRK playing both the good guy and the bad guy. This is not the first time that SRK has done this. The good guy here is a major Bollywood star called Aryan Khanna (clearly modeled on Khan and even played by him), and the bad guy is Gaurav (also played by Khan), a simple Delhi boy who runs an Internet cafe. Gaurav is so obsessed with Khanna that he lives and breathes him. He is so in love with him that his obsession borders on the psychotic.

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Gaurav has only one wish: to meet his idol and hug him. He wins Rs.20,000 in prize money after participating in a local contest where he impersonates Khanna and re-enacts sequences from his films. Using this money, he makes a trip to Delhi to meet Khanna and realize his lifelong dream. He compares his journey to that of Khanna’s when he first started out. When he fails to meet him, he comes up with a twisted plan to get to him. However, this doesn’t work out the way he intended and his small “act of kindness” backfires on him. A gravely disappointed and heartbroken Gaurav decides to ruin Khanna’s life. He chased Khanna all his life and now he wants Khanna to chase him.

So what makes this film so special? Or rather, is the film really that special as many say? I’ve heard people call it so many things: “Game-changer”, “revolutionary”, “SRK’s comeback” etc. I didn’t feel the same way. There are some things that worked and there are some that didn’t. First of all, this is a film made strictly for SRK fans. Unfortunately, I’m not one and yet I approached it with an open mind. To me, it felt like a glorified tribute to SRK. What we get here is a promising character drama in the first half reminiscent of The King of Comedy and an unbelievably dull and preposterous second half which is a cross between the Jason Bourne films and Quantum of Solace. What I liked most about it, however, is SRK’s performance as Gaurav. It’s his moments that stand out from the rest. There is a scene where he becomes all giddy with excitement when Khanna speaks to him for the first time, through the phone.  When you see his gleaming eyes and girly giggles, you forget for a moment that this is SRK playing Gaurav.

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But it’s the second half which is full of problems and inconsistencies. How come a major star is chasing another guy and performing various stunts in the process, including one on a bike? Now see, this wouldn’t happen in real life. He would send his stunt double to chase him, provided this stunt double also works as his bodyguard. And how come Gaurav is shorter and leaner than Khanna in the first half but almost the same height as him in the second half? The film is basically a pure 90s-style, good guy vs bad guy melodrama without the inclusion of unnecessary songs and dances. There is a good story and probably a good message is hidden in there somewhere but we’ll never to get to see it. I hoped to see a more subtle approach to the subject matter. This is, after all, a country where lunatic fans kill themselves if their favorite star’s film turns out to be a dud. Hopefully, this film will serve as a wake-up call to such fans. I wonder how it would’ve turned if Kamal Hassan were cast instead of SRK. Maybe we’ll get to see a Tamil remake soon starring Hassan. But if they plan to do that, I hope they hire a better screenwriter.

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