An Jo on Fan

FAN is a movie that sucks you in only to spit you out with a stronger reflux. It has many things going for it and would have had many, many more things had the makers decided not to take a detour mid-way; or at least, keep the detour to a minimum. One can read FAN as a reflection and celebration of ‘The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan’ and ‘The Entire World of a Shah Rukh fan.’

Throughout, there are references galore to the journey of SRK from Delhi to ‘Deewana’ to ‘Main Hoon Na’ to dancing-at-weddings. They are peppered throughout and are up for grabs for those that can connect and relate to them. There are many directorial flourishes here. Maneesh Sharma gets together with a superstar having his origins in Delhi – and of course the one who wears it on his sleeve—and provides a thoughtful glimpse into manic fandom of a middle-class star-struck fan, financially content running a cyber-cafe.[There is a finely staged fight-scene between SRK and a few colony-bullies in the initial scenes. Does this remind you of SRK’s constant ‘दिल्ली का लड़का हूँ; हाथ पैर घूमाके फ़ैसला सुनाना आता हैं|’ harking?] The star SRK’s alter-ego is named Aryan Khanna {Aryan is SRK’s son’s name; take out the ‘na’ in Khanna it becomes a Khan}. SRK’s spirit and life hover ALL along the film and the director merely channels the spirit into a character-superstar and a character-fan: In the sense that in many emotive moments of the fan, you see the SRK of yore when he was weaving himself into becoming a syllabus for obsessive roles; and in the many moments of the super-star Aryan Khanna, you see Shah Rukh Khan the star. The film starts off with a shot of DEEWANA and as the credits and age of the fan proceed, it stops somewhere at the fag end of ‘90s. The rest of SRK’s journey is conveyed smartly against a project-screen with Gaurav Chandana, the die-hard SRK fan, re-living SRK’s trade-mark moves for the Dusshera audience – and winning the trophy year-after-year— in Inder Vihar, Delhi. The film then basically takes it forward from where Amitabh and Kashyap’s ‘Murraba’ ended. Amitabh gets the Murabba [here Gaurav gets sweets from a famous Delhi eatery] in ‘Bombay Talkies’ and the fan is convinced and happy irrespective of the difficulties endured. Here, the fan ‘considers’ himself rejected since the star doesn’t even give a hoot about giving 5 seconds of his life to his fan – let alone 5 minutes.

After landing in Bombay—even Gaurav’s first-time-in-Bombay is handled uniquely; there are obviously lustrous shots of the Bandra-Worli sea-link, the Taj, the Flora Fountain but, but, the back-ground music is almost comical, as though laughing at the obstinacy of Gaurav’s journey to meet his idol. Gaurav gets involved in an episode when he takes it upon himself to teach a lesson to a ‘young’, up-coming ‘Kapoor’ actor who is hell-bent on taking legal action against Aryan Khanna since he slapped him in a party [Kunder-gate anyone?]. Oh by the way, Aryan slapped him since he had the guts to flirt with his wife after drinking expensive red wine at his home! [Amitabh/Khalid anyone?]. Gaurav is expecting Aryan to be thrilled but is heart-broken when he realizes that his idol is the one who gets him imprisoned and beaten. Their meeting at a police station is one of the most thrilling moments in this film – albeit the best and arguably, the last one. SRK is great as Aryan and Gaurav in this scene. You see a ‘stardom-weary’ SRK explaining ‘practicalities’ to Gaurav. But Gaurav is just ecstatic upon meeting his idol only to realize soul-crushingly that Aryan, too, is capable of insensitivity and lying— Gaurav gets up and imitates Aryan and paraphrases one of his kiss-and-thumbs-up routine comments: फँस हैं तो मैं हूँ; फँस नहीं तो मैं नही; in other words, being human {jeez; Salman Bhai coming into play here—too much meta in this film}—as the star explains in the penultimate scene. The fact that Aryan isn’t willing to consider even 5 minutes of his life for a ‘fan’ crushes him and Gaurav just drowns his life into an OCD of ‘fan versus the star.’ From here, the film just ventures onto the thriller format and that proves to be its downfall. All the ‘meta’ is butchered at the feet of this literal genre-jump and all that lies next is the cat-and-mouse game between a fan and a star with disastrous consequences.

And here is where the film’s irrecoverable fault-line lies. If the intention of having a VFXed SRK at 50 play a 25 year old is NOT just a visual trick in a book but to go meta [is a fan but a reflection of the star?], why change tracks mid-way and maneuver unintelligently into the thriller track? The problem with the film jumping onto the thriller track is that the entire novelty, philosophically, of having a look-alike is kind of defeated! Replace Gaurav with a character that doesn’t look like SRK and the thriller element STILL works. You don’t really need an Aryan Khanna look-alike—yes of course, I understand it aids the ‘thriller’ parts where one can impersonate another but to what end? [By the way, Korean action directors and teams have handled the action here – so one can guess the importance given to the action and thriller element here]. And I am not even going into the debatable ludicrousness of this cyber-shop owner from Inder Vihar being able to take on police officers in Bombay or being an excellent fighter or making calls on burner cells or getting in and out of countries that would make him as stealthy as Jason Bourne. This part, I am quite happy to dismiss as incidental to the plot and focus solely on the dynamics between a superstar and an obsessed fan.

As I said before, there are fine garnishments in this movie worth savoring. On a call with his parents, Gaurav superbly conveys his disappointment by just saying that there is an ocean of humans between Aryan’s Mannat and him; his shouts and words travel, but never reach there. [It’s only the fan standing next to him realizes and hears the ‘intensity’ in his voice.] There is a laugh-out-loud scene where Kapoor, the Hindi film-actor is asked to read a letter at knife-point and he sheepishly replies, ‘Dude, this is in Hindi.’ Hilarious! There is subversion here where a Hindi film ‘hero’ is made to look like a, well, a coward when faced with a real-life threat. [Remember RGV’s Company? The 6-packed ‘Khan’ seeking police-protection and cowering in-the-face-of underworld threats?]. Gaurav’s exuberance and enthusiasm when embarking on his trip to meet Aryan is infectious. He tells his Dad not to pack many underwears since there would hardly be any time to change them! There are Delhi-isms galore and really fun. ‘खाना खाने थोड़े ही जा रहा हूँ? मैं तो झहप्पी देने जा रहा हूँ!’ says Gaurav when asked about food. ‘हाँ आप स्टेज पे बोल दो और सारा सियापा ख़तम कर दो’| says his father to Aryan. In the scene where Gaurav lands up in front of Mannat the first time, he tries to get in by taking a selfie with the security guard and then explains how he is ‘different’ from social-networking fans by enacting a couple of scenes from Aryan/SRK’s movies. He enacts, but the security guard just goes about his job. That’s a fine scene conveying that the world goes on in a tangent for SRK/Aryan and is employees, but for Gaurav, the world starts and stops in Aryan’s movies. In one of the scenes, Aryan says that he will deal with things himself as he has done ALL his life since the fan is getting unruly [reference to ‘outsider’, no-Godfather SRK anyone?]

SRK is in his elements as both the super-star and the fan. The exuberance of the fan versus the worldliness of the super-star is quite nicely conveyed by him. One gold-standard take-away from this film is that SRK has just bared himself as a super-star in this movie. He lets you into what it means be SRK-the superstar: Not Amitabh the super-star; not Rajnikanth the super-star; not Salman, not Aamir, not Dilip Kumar. SRK the super-star doesn’t hesitate to dance at business-men’s daughter’s weddings. The business-man is rude and admonishes him that superstars like him take everything for granted. They come late; they think the world of themselves, blah, blah. “I am paying you a bomb. You better make it worth”, says the business-tycoon. Aryan simply takes in the insult and replies, ‘Of course you are the one who can pay the bomb! You won’t regret it.” He then goes about mechanically dancing and pleasing the wedding guests. This is what I meant by SRK – the superstar. He is just announcing: This is me; I dance at weddings for money. I am ‘sankhi.’ I use foul language. Deal with it.

The VFX is patchy [buck-tooth visible in some scenes; absent elsewhere]. In some scenes, it is clearly repulsive when in others, it comes out quite well. The film is technically very savvy – except as mentioned, for junior SRK’s prosthetic [Jr/Sr – Abhishek/Amitabh anyone?]

The only question is – at what point does the fan in this film is fit to be considered a medical disorder? At what point do you take a Rajnikanth’s ‘fan’ to the hospital? After he burns himself or lays on a track thanks to him not getting a 1st day 1st show 1st-seat ticket to a new movie or before? At what point would one consider a fan ‘certifiable’? Or can than even be considered?


22 Responses to “An Jo on Fan”

  1. Sanjana:

    Nice review.


  2. What a superb review AnJo…. loved it.
    Big LOL on -“Dude this is in Hindi ” !!!


    • On Hindi- So few of our friends send their kids to Hindi classes to learn writing in Hindi ( Devnagri )… Personally I am of the view that it’s been ages when I have written anything in Hindi. So as long as my kids can speak Fluently in Hindi , I am O.K. with they not being able to read/Write in Hindi .


      • I showed hindi alphabets to my daughter at a very young age and she said what is this 3-1 for अ. I have never tried again 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • A Swiss friend once said that hindi script looked like washing hanging on a line with cloth pegs.


        • I have gora friends married to desi, who read it perfectly…so it ain’t that hard. It opens the entire world of literature if you teach them to read. And also Sanskrit. So don’t give up so easily Muna and rocky.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I was having a discussion with my colleagues regarding use of one language or world with multiple languages. I concluded that It is good to have one language for communication but different languages invoke different emotions. So A , B, C song is plain to me but Neerja’s A, Aa, E invokes emotions in me. I guess things which are embedded at young age tends to stay for your life.

            Ps – I am more for teaching common sense and how to use money to kids. Even if you are mediocre, you can traverse life. There is no end to things out there in world; you can learn only so much!


          • It is a parent prerogative I suppose…to teach or not to teach. However kids are very very bright and one should not underestimate their abilities. In India I know kids who speak multiple languages very easily in multi-lingual homes including few cousins kids who speak language of the maid/household help. Here in USA, ,my own speak French, Chinese, Spanish (all non-native languages) along with two indian lanugages. More the merrier. As I had said earlier, it opens the door to the entire region-culture and it adds to your life. Personally I think learning devnagari is important for multiple reasons. Even if seeds are planted, they can explore it in college. Though I am glad yours speak it at least. I know people who don’t speak or understand it even. Common sense sikhya nahi jata, aa jata hai.


          • I think knowing more languages helps to appreciate and enjoy films, literature etc. South Indians usually know more than two south Indian languages, hindi and English. My folks in US arrange special tutors to teach mother tongues to their kids and encourage them to participate in cultural activities of that language. And their biodata also improves due to this. They will have an idea of their roots especially second and third generations. If they can speak their respective mother tongues at home, it is not so difficult to learn scripts of those languages.


          • Well Said Sanjana.


        • Munna- I showed hindi alphabets to my daughter at a very young age and she said what is this 3-1 for अ. I have never tried again:)

          Rocky – LMAO !!! her analytical skills are perfect..


    • Thanks Rocky.


  3. Very nice review,An Jo.
    Looks like a good idea gone wrong.
    The whole concept is a little ironic given there is no other star as consumed by his stardom as SRK is and how creepy his fans are by and large.


  4. AamirsFan Says:

    pretty solid review as always.

    “The problem with the film jumping onto the thriller track is that the entire novelty, philosophically, of having a look-alike is kind of defeated! Replace Gaurav with a character that doesn’t look like SRK and the thriller element STILL works.”

    This was pretty much what I was thinking also.

    SRK acted fairly well; he hasn’t looked this engaged in a film in quite a while and of course it took this kind of script to get the enthusiasm outta him. Also, that last scene…lets just say SRK was a huge *fan* of how D3 ended so they tried to emulate it! lol. Overall, this was a well made bad film. The potential was there in the first half.


  5. Anyone read Taran’s so called analysis on Fan. ( Analysing the biz of #Fan. My article on Bollywood Hungama: )

    It ceases to amaze me the extent to which these guys will go to make excuses and defend the low collections of Fan. From SRK going hatke, breaking barriers, working with newer directors, breaking the stereotype, releasing in regular weeks and amidst IPL season etc etc to show how all of those reasons have impacted the biz prospects of Fan. In addition, now they seem to be deliberately lowering the cost of the film to suit their assertions. Taran, Faridoon are all cut from the same cloth. If this exact scenario played out with any other actor, they would gave ripped him a new one. And God forbid, if it were AB jr, they would have written an obituary.

    IMO, AB jr had followed a similar path in his films and of course they never once opined this way.

    Anyway, nothing against SRK here. I actually think he did a great job in Fan, 2nd half was a huge let down. It just these Taran’s, Faridoon’s, Rajeev’s etc. just rub me the wrong way. The wreak of hypocrisy.



  6. excellent review,pity the film is not….is this the end of srk as superstar ?….even dead comes alive so we will see how much it makes….


  7. ** This is looong but very interesting..**

    More than a year later, Raju was called to another ad shoot, again to be a stand-in for Khan. He arrived, and was in a vanity van preparing for the first shot when he was summoned by one of Khan’s assistants—a woman whom he remembered as “really sharp, beautiful and intimidating.” When she saw Raju, she asked the underling who had escorted him, “This guy is Raju Rahikwar? The same guy who’s been spreading bad publicity about SRK in newspapers?”

    After she scanned him from “head to toe,” Raju remembered, he asked her if he could meet “bhaijaan.”

    “No, you can’t meet SRK, he’s very busy,” she said. “And you especially can’t meet him.”

    Raju was asked to wait in the vanity van. Some hours later, he got paid for the day. His services were no longer required. He stormed out, and into his car. On seeing Khan on the set a few feet away, he rolled down his windows, honked in anger, and drove away.

    WHEN THE FAN TRAILER CAME OUT, it wasn’t just the one friend of Raju’s who noticed the similarities between Gaurav and him. Messages flowed in: “Why did he have to do this?”; “He’s copied the entire thing”; “Whatever you’ve done, he’s included that in the film”; and, “He’s made you the villain.” Raju’s friends and followers are convinced that the star has ripped off the lookalike—not just his appearance, but also his life’s story. What makes them particularly angry is that Gaurav—Raju, to their minds—is the film’s antagonist. That Khan could do this to such a loyal fan, they think, is a staggering betrayal.

    Whatever Raju’s feelings on all this may be, he didn’t let on much in the weeks before the film’s release. “We have to be very careful about what we say about our star,” he said. “I earn because of him. I still give sadka for his wife and children. He’s my god. He’s my bhagwan.” Still, he did tell me that “Raju Rahikwar, Junior Shah Rukh Khan, who’s acted him out for the last 20 years, feels that the character in Fan is somewhat familiar.” And, it was clear, the fact that Gaurav is the villain of the piece makes him very uncomfortable.

    There’s no telling for sure if Raju’s life was in any part the basis for Fan. He is, of course, not the only real-life Shah Rukh Khan lookalike who resembles the Shah Rukh Khan lookalike in the film, or who goes by “Junior Shah Rukh Khan.” In early April, I spoke to Prashant Walde, a Khan lookalike who has worked as a stand-in and body-double for the star in several films, including Fan, and has impersonated him on television plenty of times too. “They designed the look of Gaurav, ‘Junior Aryan Khanna’ in the movie, based on my look—right from my eyebrows, lips, nose, body to hairstyle, everything,” he told me. All that Khan himself has said on Fan’s provenance is that the idea for it was first put to him about a decade ago, by the late film-maker Yash Chopra. He has also credited a non-lookalike, real-life fan of his from Delhi with inspiring some of Gaurav’s accents and mannerisms.

    For Raju, there is just one thought that puts him at ease. He told me that a writer friend of his, whom he didn’t want to name, had pointed out, “Bhai, you’ve copied him for 20 years, so what if he copied you once?”

    ON THE MORNING OF 15 APRIL, the day of Fan’s release, Raju, with his elder brother and Jadeja, made his way to Fun Republic, a multiplex in Andheri. Raju bought about 80 tickets for a 1.20 pm screening, and, starting at noon, began giving them away.

    Several television crews were present outside the theatre, and filmed Raju at work. “How did the idea of distributing free tickets come to you?” one reporter asked him. “This isn’t my money,” he said. “It belongs to Shah Rukh-sahab. I earn because of him, and then invest that back in him, by making his fans happy.”

    Raju didn’t join the crowd heading into the theatre as the screening approached. He was just there to distribute tickets, he told me, and would watch the film later, with his family. But, through friends who had seen the film, he already knew the plot. (Spoiler alert: plot details in the next four paragraphs.)

    He knew that, as the trailer had shown, Gaurav sends messages to Aryan, as Raju has to Khan, and that Gaurav desperately chases five minutes of the star’s time, as Raju has been chasing two minutes of Khan’s. He also knew the film shows Gaurav being pushed away by a guard outside Aryan’s home, much as he had been outside Mannat. And, to his surprise, Raju had learnt that he appears in the film for a few seconds, in a white shirt, black jacket and sunglasses, in candid footage of a crowd shot at Mannat on Khan’s birthday last year.

    Raju also knew that, as the plot unfolds, Gaurav displeases Aryan, who gets him locked up in jail before summarily dismissing him. Gaurav, spurned, demands an apology, and vows to wreak his revenge until he gets one. After plenty of drama and high-speed chases, the film closes with Gaurav’s death.

    “I’ve been playing that character for many years now,” Raju said, when I asked if he identified with Gaurav. He could understand the character’s reaction to being rejected by his idol. “If you love someone so much, and if he reacts like that, then he’s no longer a hero for you—he becomes a nobody.”

    Raju wasn’t happy with the film’s ending. Gaurav, he said, “shouldn’t have died. He should’ve been alive. Shah Rukh should have apologised to him. He should have hugged him.”

    “SEVEN YEARS IS A LONG, LONG TIME, SIR,” Raju told me in his office, with tired eyes, reflecting on his long pursuit of two minutes of Khan’s time. Then he turned his mind back further still. “I still look like he used to look in Deewana, I haven’t changed my look since.” Deewana came out more than 23 years ago. Raju turned 43 last year, eight days after Khan turned 50.

    “I do shows, I meet people, I get pictures clicked with them, I give autographs,” he continued. “It makes them happy. They feel that a duplicate of Shah Rukh Khan is talking to them. They think that Shah Rukh Khan must be like Raju.”

    Raju spoke unusually softly, with the air of an abandoned lover. Overhead, a ceiling fan, whirling at full speed, emitted a regular, incessant clicking. “Will Shah Rukh-sahab perform in Dharavi? Will he perform in Thane? In Gujarat, Baroda, Rajkot? No, he won’t. … Only I go to gullies and trash.

    “I’ve done around 3,000 shows in the last 20 years, so I must have made around 50 lakh fans for him? So tell me this: Why does he not give me two minutes?”


  8. In director Maneesh Sharma, Shah Rukh found his own version of Leni Riefenstahl who would deify him to no end.

    Some parts of the movie exude the warmth of the world’s worst documentary. There are extensive shots of his humble interviews when he just entered the movie industry. The Brechtian fourth wall version of the SRK world is off when the audience is made privy to the fact that every day at least hundreds of people mill around his home in Mumbai. What more, we are also taken inside his home.

    At this stage, I was so convinced of Shah Rukh Khan’s preening vanity that I expected Aryan Khanna to keep looking at his hair in the mirror every five minutes.

    My joy was short lived because the second half is just pits. Even those yawnfests Dilwale and Happy New Year had more joyous moments than this one. So many improbable chases are there in the second half that our gleeful Gaurav has transformed into a morose Jason Bourne.

    If only Sharma didn’t have to pander to his actor’s supposed narcissism, both his strong characters could have cohered on a more enjoyable level.

    The movie’s only shining performance comes from Yogendra Tikku as Gaurav’s father. As someone who is supposed to indulge his child in his outlandish fantasy, Tikku’s character does it with a winsome smile that never leaves his face.

    All said, I found it extremely admirable that he allowed himself to be shown as someone who dances unabashedly for money at weddings of uber-rich people.


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