I’m a fan. And the object of my awe and affection has been Rahul Dev Burman. Sure, when he was around, I wanted to meet him. Sure, I wanted an autograph. Sure, I dreamt of attending a recording session with him or see him in action as he composed another gem that would eventually mint gold at the vinyl factory. But why, I wonder, didn’t I ever stand under his balcony waiting for a glimpse, or try to enter his house or recording room? Why didn’t I follow him as he went to the recording studio, or rent an apartment opposite his, armed with a pair of binoculars? I can only imagine how the reticent and shy Pancham would have reacted – a gawky, pimply faced teenager staring at him through the glass booth as he sang – that’d have surely added an unplanned shiver in his fantastic vocals for Jaana o meri jaana or the fabulous Tune kiya kya jaadu. So what prevented me from wrecking RD’s classics?
According to psychologists, I was bereft of a condition called erotomania, where I would have begun projecting my admiration or love for Pancham on to the hapless composer, then reflected it back to my psyche – thus causing me to believe that he loved me as much as I did him. I’d have felt our destinies were entwined, and that any maniacal gesture on my part would only increase our bond. In extreme cases, I’d have sabotaged other rival composers’ work any way I could, just to help Pancham. I might have stolen a couple of Laxmikant Pyarelal’s dholaks and violins, and some of Bappi Lahiri’s gold chains, thus causing them all to dive into depression and churn out unbearable compositions in the 80s. (As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered – they did it anyways.)
In the irrepressible Shah Rukh Khan’s case, this erotomania, or at least a milder version of it, exists for all to see. The actor projects his love for his object of affection and desire and then basks in it compulsively. And that object of affection is Shah Rukh Khan. But he wears this love on his sleeve with such an impish grace and a superbly manufactured air of self-deprecation that you actually wouldn’t have it any other way. And director Maneesh Sharma and producer Aditya Chopra’s Fan is a tribute to Shah Rukh’s self-erotomania, and in a surreal and bizarre twist, that pretty much reflects real life, both the fan and his idol are the actor himself.
Written by Habib Faisal, Fan takes you right into Gaurav Chandna’s (Shah Rukh Khan) life. And that is a life impaled by and anchored to the life of superstar Aryan Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan.) To add an ingenious twist to this tale of erotomania, Gaurav is a look-alike of Aryan, and that, to the middle class Gaurav, is God’s way of saying that their lives are intertwined and they are meant to meet. Gaurav isn’t an exact replica of Aryan, though – if there were ever to be a Ramgarh Ke Sholay with a Shah Rukh look-alike, Gaurav would be the candidate. With some superb prosthetics by Academy Award-nominated Greg Cannom and visual effects by Red Chillies, Gaurav’s character is superbly etched by Shah Rukh. More of that in a bit. In his desire to meet his idol and to sponsor his trip from Delhi to Mumbai, Gaurav participates in, and wins a local competition that gets him twenty thousand rupees. Supported by his parents – played by Deepika Amin and Yogendra Tiku – Gaurav finally makes the trip to Mumbai to meet his idol on the latter’s birthday.
Director Maneesh Sharma keeps the movie going at a superb, breathless pace in the first half. Aided by some sharp editing by Namrata Rao, the movie quickly traverses from good fun to a darker side of the swooning fan. Before you know it, it’s a no-holds-barred chase, the fan trying to meet with the superstar, and doing everything to achieve this. When the meeting does happen, Gaurav’s heart is broken as he realizes (in his own twisted mind) that Aryan Khanna betrayed him and has caused him much grief. As the interval calling card comes in, you see Gaurav burning all remnants of his love for Aryan, but you know that this is just the beginning. And post-interval, Gaurav begins to neatly decimate the superstar’s reputation. This is the part where you’re required to suspend your sense of realism while sucking on pinches of salt, and if you do that, Fan turns into a deadly thriller of chase, the post-interval plot mirroring the first half – which means that Aryan’s now in hot pursuit of Gaurav.
Fan has some truly fantastic moments – a breathtaking chase between Gaurav and the cops in the first half is extremely well shot. Suck on more of that salt as you watch the fan deftly scope the crumbling ledges of a relic building in Mumbai; on second thoughts, never mind, as you watch this chase with widening eyes, the camera swinging precariously in a brilliant grey filter employed by cinematographer Manu Anand. There’s another chase in the second half, that spans almost ten minutes, and that to me, is the highlight of the action – superbly choreographed atop the tiled roofs of the beautifully manicured city of Dubrovnik, never mind how both Gaurav and Aryan discover their parkour genes, as they jump, roll, and tumble across a breathlessly shot sequence. I loved the shot, where, the camera, soaring high in the air, captures the two men loping across the said roofs. Absolutely good stuff, this.
There’s another great scene in the cinema hall, when Gaurav is part of a multitude of crazed fans waiting for Aryan to appear on the balcony top to greet them. In an absolutely believable and crazy moment, you watch with knowing disbelief how the fans react when Aryan appears. There’s true heartbreak when Gaurav sees his idol in flesh and blood for the first time, trying to get his attention, albeit unsuccessfully. The fan’s desperation to be seen, heard, and acknowledged in that moment of crowd-crushing claustrophobia, is a triumphant moment of cinematic desperation.
Where I suddenly felt a déjà vu of Darr violence and denouement was in the climactic fight and the sequence leading to it. That’s when the plot and movie unraveled very quickly for me, and I wished the ending was more ambiguous and gripping than the predictable fare it becomes.
There’s no songs in Fan to break the pace, and Andrea Guerra’s background score is solid – swinging between the brassy madness of the 80s to a Beatle-ish guitar piece in a cyber café fight between Gaurav and some goons. In the second half, Guerra makes an appropriately dark turn with his orchestra.
Of the cast, Deepika Amin and Yogendra Tiku are superb, while Waluscha De Sousa as Aryan’s wife is incredibly unmoved and calm in what ought to have been a terrorizing scene of house entry. Shriya Pilgaonkar as Gaurav’s love interest is effective, but doesn’t get much to do. However, Fan is Shah Rukh Khan and Shah Rukh Khan’s alone. The movie is not as much about the actor’s ubiquitousness as it is a cyclorama of his acting presence and skills. As Gaurav, his body language and dialogue delivery is as cocky as they come from Delhi; he segues from the toothy, mildly amusing Gaurav to a crazed, vengeful fan superbly, reveling in this villainous turn and worshipping his own photos. He’s superb in the aforementioned crowd scene, his eyes skewed with a manic desperation that quickly turns to despair. As Aryan the superstar, Shah Rukh gets in a deft touch of arrogance and touch-me-not that only true superstars can understand and achieve.
Fan, then, is Shah Rukh’s doffing of hat to his own stardom, even as he gets in an acting edge that’s quirky, fearsome, and loathsome; and all the while, making the doppelganger cat-and-mouse game and face offs a lot of fun, with effective acting chops. As the movie ends, you also realize that no matter how cool, every superstar is haunted by their own celebrity status as much as their fans are enamored by it. And you think, if you were a superstar, waving to a hysterical crowd outside your house – wouldn’t you be frowning worriedly, at least a little, wondering if any of the bobbing expressions in a sea of faces, were potentially suffering from stalk home syndrome?
Watch the trailer of Fan here: