Have you ever visited Mannat, Shah Rukh Khan’s mansion, on the 2nd of November? That’s his birthday, by the way. I have. The wave of mania that clogs the area on that day is incomprehensible. If not for him, most of us feel that kind of crazy adulation for some movie star or another. Maneesh Sharma’s Fan was meant to be for us – the crazy ones.
But instead, the film turned out to be about identity theft, packaged as a pseudo-thriller and has way too many chase sequences, because for some reason, Indian film-makers feel that chase sequences make for a slick thriller.
The story follows Gaurav (Shah Rukh in waxy makeup), a middle-class twenty-something from suburban Delhi, and his lifelong hero worship of Aaryan Khanna (Shah Rukh in pancake-y makeup), a Bollywood superstar. Gaurav is also popular in his locality as Aaryan’s mimic due to similarity in facial features, a phenomenon unique to Indian small towns. After winning a local talent competition, Gaurav uses the cash prize to travel to Mumbai to meet Aaryan on his birthday (after forcing the ticket inspector on the train to allow him to travel without a ticket in the loo). Obviously, the meeting does not happen. But when a junior star, Sid Kapoor, gets into a brawl with Aaryan, Gaurav decides to take matters into his hands to show his love for his hero. But when that love is not reciprocated, the fandom turns ugly, leading to – SPOILER ALERT – arrest warrants, molestation charges, an outburst at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London, crashing a wedding party in Dubrovnik and – you guessed it – chase sequences.
So, what are my problems with the film? Maneesh Sharma, the man who created some delightfully rooted, middle-class stories like Band Baaja Baaraat, Shuddh Desi Romance and Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha, fails to establish an emotional core. You don’t feel for Gaurav because he behaves like a criminal from the very beginning. He reminds you of Shah Rukh Khan from Darr – a character who might be award winning on screen but no girl wants a psychotic stalker like that. Even the most hardcore SRK fans won’t see ourselves in Gaurav. While the premise of the film is how fans believe their movie idols are easily accessible and reachable these days (which has happened due to the presence of every movie star on social media), there is no instance of Gaurav being maniacal online – even though he owns a cyber café, which would allow him to indulge in cyber stalking all the time. Neither is the culture of movie star mimicry delved into.
Soon the film becomes a series of absolutely unrealistic events strung together with slick editing. When Gaurav ambushes a younger star to record a video apology (in the star’s own vanity van), he is arrested only after Aaryan calls the cops on him on seeing the video online. And then Aaryan goes to visit him in jail at night. Because that is what a superstar does – he is going to put on a black hoodie and visit his crazy stalker in jail at midnight. And I haven’t even started with the second half yet.
But the bigger problem with the film is the fact that the film-maker could not distinguish between the superstar, the actor and the human being – a problem only fans are supposed to have. Gaurav Chandna is a regular 25 year old. He is not a superstar or an actor. He is mimicking one. Unfortunately, the film fails to make that distinction. The mannerisms hardly change, the voice is not different either. It feels like Shah Rukh Khan with a bad botox job (and a good nose job). The director also forgets that a character like Chandna’s will not be able to pull off top-notch parkour on rickety buildings while fending off policemen in Mumbai. Is Shah Rukh suffering from the Salman syndrome too – to be a hero even when the character is that of a loser? On the other hand, Aaryan Khanna the superstar is not a superstar off screen. He, too, is not a hero. He should not be able to chase a random dude on slanted tile roofs in Dubrovnik with the nimble-footedness of Spiderman. He cannot be pulling off a Tarzan with random ropes, crashing into guys from dizzying heights and body tackling them. He cannot be doing wheelies on fast bikes, smashing into wooden furniture and not feeling a thing – he cannot be running for almost five minutes and not run out of breath. The director forgot that while he was designing Dhoom-style action sequences for India’s biggest superstar, the superstar was not playing a superstar on screen. Shah Rukh isn’t playing the army man from Main Hoon Na or Jab Tak Hai Jaan. He isn’t playing a hero. He is playing himself. And Maneesh Sharma lost the one chance he had to portray a superstar’s human side – the insecurities, vulnerability and weakness.
The film’s climax is another major let down. It obviously is a finale brawl – between an ageing celebrity and a 25 year old nincompoop, mind you – and somehow they have a Bollywood-style fight sequence, oozing blood, sweat and saliva. Tut tut.
Also, for a film that has screenplay and dialogues by Habib Faisal (Ishaqzaade) and Sharat Katariya (Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha), it is shocking how the writing is so poor. Maybe, just like Maneesh Sharma, YRF’s “middle-class Delhi” boys are not ready for big stars and bigger budgets yet.