I’ve taken a week to pen down my thoughts about Fan, allowing them to simmer and swirl in the extremely muddled cauldron of my brain. And I’ve gone through the whole path of emotions from pre-determined expectations, instantaneous spur of the moment reactions and validations of those to careful assessment and finally re-callibrating of your thoughts based upon what you hear from others and of course how others react to what you say. Which is the right reaction, the final one, the honest one? Or are they all independent and equally valid? That’s a discussion for another post.
It’s probably inappropriate to write about Fan without first clarifying your relationship with Shah Rukh Khan. Yes ‘relationship’ is the best word IMO because everyone who’s grown up in India over the last 3 decades has one for sure. It’s a cliche but probably an appropriate one – you can love him, hate him but it’s pretty darn difficult to ignore him. So SRK for me – has changed over the years to be honest. I didn’t grow up in a family with a Hindi movie watching culture so I missed all his early evolution and anti-hero bits. He was however always a peripheral presence in the background, one of the few filmstars as they used to call them in those days – that I could recognize. Appearing in commercials with Sachin doesn’t harm your popularity of course. I think Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was the first SRK movie I was really aware of and watched. Today I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I liked it but at that time, I did. The same cool-ness that seems kitschy today actually did seem cool in that time and age! He also seemed like a smart person in the interviews that he did and whatever we saw of him off the silver screen as well. (Although as Will Smith says, those were simpler times where you could be ‘dumb in private’ unlike in the Age of Social Media where if you’re dumb, you’re actually ‘dumb in public’.) I never watched all his movies after that, but this was an age when teenagers start reading Bombay Times regularly to be able to speak about the really hep stuff at school. So Shah Rukh Khan grew on me I guess and I tolerated the Mein Hoon Naa’s by balancing them against the Swades’ and Chak De India’s of his world and adding a dollop of his off screen smart-alec persona for good measure as a positive.
I think I started losing him with the IPL – with the hundred things to not say and do which he does do – ‘I don’t like to stay with negativity’ (in context of why he wasn’t travelling with his team during a losing streak), the FakeIPLPlayer gossip, the obnoxious celebrations after the rare victory for his team, the arguments with security guards and this was now beefed up by the increasingly poor and safe movie choices he continued to make even as most of his colleagues tried, at least tried to turn over into a new leaf. And no, Ra.One isn’t quite trying. What you may say? How do poor movies make him a worse person? But it does because I’m judging the individual based on the movies he’s signing. So whether the movie is a hit or not, just choosing to do that inane blockbuster makes him less admirable as a person. Ergo I’m not an SRK-bhakt or as they used to be called, ‘fan’. Had he been an Uber Driver, he’d be a 2.5 basis on what I feel about him right now. So I believed I’d watch this movie objectively, without any inherent biases – related to the person at least!
My initial feeling while watching the movie and immediately afterwards was – Wow. Because this was a ballsy movie to do. I didn’t care so much for the Gaurav – I thought it was par for the course but I absolutely loved the Aryan avatar. To actually put yourself there, to be okay with those dialogues, to paint yourself as someone so imperfect is a bold move in itself. The willingness to poke fun at yourself, through self-deprecatory references about dancing in weddings, having a bad attitude, not being ready to say sorry come what may, to show in the heart of your heart – you’re just an average schmo with an attitude to boot? I can’t think of too many actors or stars who would have been okay with putting themselves in those shoes.
The writing is tight as well, the dialogues are never outrageously unrealistic. The chase sequences likewise – the one where he jumps out of the window or the one in Dubrovnik are spared of the Rohit Shetty-esque ridiculousness you come to expect these days. Were they really necessary to the story? Probably not, but they got your adrenaline pumping in the right way. The bit roles were lovely – Aryan’s secretary (special mention!), Gaurav’s parents, Gaurav’s ‘one-way’ girlfriend, even the cops in London. And the thought process is amazing – the meta-meta part where the original plays the impostor as if he’s playing an impostor himself is a killer touch, the eventual climax and the touches of middle class Delhi which are down to a T all make it very special.
But, and here comes the but – the movie has a problem. And it’s not a single incident either, it’s one which cuts across all throughout – for a movie based on the premise of being a realistic story (and this is within reason of course) – it has a lot of patchwork stuff which is unrealistic. The kidnapping story – where a lithe short guy ties up a 6 feet hero with his retinue hanging around at gunpoint was ludicrous, surely someone could have spent slightly more than effort putting that story together. Ditto for breaking into the the palace at Dubrovnik – with so many CCTVs around he was able to maintain his act for long enough to cause damage. Entering & escaping from his home in Mumbai (getting out of a regular cool cab at that!). Suddenly being able to track all movements, even phone calls to the last detail. Basically suddenly looking very similar to the real deal when there’s a need to and appearing reasonably different when there’s a need to (the entire first half probably) is all very off putting in the larger scheme of things and which take away from potential greatness. The more I think about the movie, the more these points seem to stick and take away from the overall feel of things.
4 stars on exiting the movie hall, 3 stars when I actually think about it, 2 stars when I read the Vigil Idiot. But since we try our best to be authentic genuine human beings and because this is an extremely admirable effort if nothing else, I will go with my original feedback of 4 stars. Not a flawless movie though, this one is bound to polarise. And I really hope that’s okay.