Shahrukh Khan movies of late have veered towards over-the-top film extravaganzas, often too big to fit even in a circus tent (especially Happy New Year). Khan the Actor was increasingly in danger of being replaced by the Khan the Star or Khan the Performer. To get back on track, Khan turned to Yashraj to devise a vehicle that would allow him to do an about-face. Even though it feels disconnected at times and falls flat as a fake biopic, Sharma’s Fan finally signals a return of Khan the Actor.
In a double role, significantly enhanced by prosthetic facial realignments, Khan is carved up into two strikingly disparate characters. One Khan is Aryan Khanna, the complacent, fabulously rich Bollywood superstar who has become the master of his domain. The other Khan is Gaurav Chandna, a lookalike and rabid New Delhi fan obsessed with the silver screen demi-god. Gaurav will do anything to be noticed by his “hero” Aryan Khanna. He is brushed off by the superstar during their first encounter, and Gaurav vows to somehow get even with the superstar.
Despite Khan’s decent performance especially as the fan Gaurav in the role of a twisted, first rate stalker—the view of Khan as Aryan Khanna is sometimes uncomfortably close to Khan’s real life. Khan in one of his two roles is on the screen about 90% of the time. A saturation point starts to creep in when Khan the star is informed by top Indian diplomats in London, where Gaurav’s vitriol has him posing as Aryan Khanna. This leads to international ramifications, and Aryan is now pretty much on his own in solving his stalker problem.
Really? For all his resources, this hugely successful, very rich man is left on his own to fight the bad guy. The constant reminders about Aryan’s success or Gaurav’s depravity begin to feel creepy in their dystopian take on the perils of stardom. We certainly don’t want to be the amoral Gaurav who lies his way into posing for a lifestyle he clearly will never have. On the other hand, if being a huge star means you are man-handling riffraff at sudden, scary and sometimes violent turns, the glamor of stardom takes on a black veneer.
The Varun Grover-penned Jabra Fan is a catchy and popular tune in search of a movie.
Released in about a dozen languages with slightly altered lyrics, the song has become quite popular. Like Phantom earlier, Fan is also a movie without songs. The token song is offered as a companion music video. Now, this appears to be a trend. To lend gravitas to a weighty script, some moviemakers skip songs in the movie and still get to call the song one of their own.
In the hands of Yashraj, the production values are excellent, and the staging of sequences from New Delhi (where Gaurav’s humble origin story is rooted) to Mumbai (which is saturated with Aryan Khanna posters) to London (with uncaring British police who pretend to not know who Aryan Khanna is) to Dubrovnik (a wonderful red tile roof top chase scene) are eye catching.
Sadly, with Khan in split personas chewing up so much reel estate, Pilgaonkar as Gaurav’s girlfriend and Amin and Tiku as Gaurav’s parents, have severely curtailed roles. By all counts, Khan is highly successful. Some sources place his net worth at $600 million, the second highest in the world amongst actors (behind American actor Jerry Seinfeld). With his standing in the field, and potentially hundreds of scripts to choose from, why would Khan opt for a story that is essentially a bonfire of self-adulation unless it is to say this to his legions of fans: Love-me-but-don’t-love-me-too-much. Nothing else fits.