Ashwati Vipin | April 19, 2016
Ever since he flashed that menacing smile in Darr, the world knew this man was special. Over the years Shah Rukh Khan has displayed his acting prowess in both off-beat and massive commercial successes. Be it endearing fan movie reviews or full house cinemas, the world was in love. But in his past few roles, Shah Rukh the actor had disappeared. The impression was that you were stepping into a Shah Rukh Khan movie and neither the story nor the acting seemed to be important in a film that starred the King of Bollywood. Whether it was Happy New Year or Dilwale, it was another instance of squandered potential. I refused to watch these films because I am an admirer of Shah Rukh the person and Shah Rukh the actor, not necessarily Shah Rukh the hero. But with Fan, it seems that Shah Rukh Khan the actor is back.
Fan starts off with a fantastic first half with plenty of excellently composed frames. You are introduced to Gaurav Chandna (Shah Rukh Khan), a wonderfully etched character of a die-hard fan of the actor Aryan Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan) whom he refers to as his God. Chandna is a typical middle-class lad from Delhi’s Indra Vihar, not unlike his idol’s unexceptional origins and all he wants is recognition from his hero. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to Aryan which is an important aspect of the film’s plot. The local Super Sitara talent competition has Gaurav imitating his icon’s most famous moves and he has won this contest every year. Aryan Khanna on the other hand is bravely based on Shah Rukh Khan himself. The film uses all-too-familiar references from his own life to build the unapologetic star that he is. Shah Rukh slips between the stubborn and cocky Aryan and obsessed and creepy Gaurav with great ease. This interplay of characters isn’t just limited to the superficial, but runs deep into mannerisms and nuances in personality. The prosthetics and camera work help in establishing Gaurav as reasonaby similar to Aryan, yet not quite the same.
Gaurav’s quest to meet Khanna culminates in him landing in front of Aryan’s house on the occasion of his birthday when he comes out to greet his fans. Gaurav’s naivety lies in thinking that he will get to personally meet the superstar. After all he is his biggest fan! As a viewer you are invested in Gaurav’s dream and really want him to succeed. But the point when the heart-breaking realisation hits Gaurav that this meeting was not to be, is beautifully filmed and accompanied by a wonderfully subtle yet powerful background score. It is in that moment you truly forget that it is in fact the same person essaying both roles! You genuinely feel for Gaurav’s character because at the face of it, what he demands of Khanna i.e. five minutes of his time, is not too much to ask for.
Thus, the first half sets the precedent for the rest of the film wherein dejected Gaurav, terribly hurt from the lacklustre response from his idol, is on a mission to use his resemblance to the star against him. There are some slick and well-filmed action scenes here that keep you on the edge of your seat. The film also features good performances by the supporting cast. Yet, the darker second half suffers from plot holes and isn’t without flaws. For instance, why would a star of his status have such limited security and take matters into his own hands? Nonetheless, it is Shah Rukh that keeps you engaged even when the story disappoints. It takes guts for someone of his stature to play a haughty superstar with references to his own controversial past.
What this film makes you wonder, until much after the end credits roll, is how much do the celebrities we so dearly love and worship owe us? For me, the best thing about Fan is that you forget that it’s a megastar Shah Rukh Khan film. At the same time I cannot imagine anyone else except him that could pull off such a film and do it with such finesse! It’s been a while since we were brought face to face with Shah Rukh the understated actor. And it’s safe to say that when Shah Rukh Khan steps out of his comfort zone, it really makes for compelling cinema.
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