Get this. Believes he, “Main hoon toh tum ho” (“Because of me, you’re there.”) That reminder by a movie geek nails it hard on superstars who can’t see beyond their noses-‘n’-peacock-like poses. It’s no secret that on achieving stupendous success, practically every actor throws mega-attitude. Don’t even think of gratitude.
So, Fan directed by Maneesh Sharma and written by Habib Faisal, does have a plot premise which is auto-critical and self-flagellating. Never mind if quite a few of its elements are traceable to the two pitch-dark Hollywood takes on the similar subject — The King of Comedy and The Fan — both of which featured Robert de Niro as a psychotic ‘hero’. Originality isn’t the strong suit of this de Niro remixed venture. Still, the result’s quite an audacious, cat-and-mouse adventure in the thickets of showbiz. Yay?
Not without reservations. The first-half is fantastic, slickly paced and grittily shot, shuttling between a New Delhi middle-class neighbourhood and the gullies of the deceptively-glam Show City Mumbai. The probe into the heart of a manic fan of the Badshah of Bollywood — the umpteenth double-role op for Shah Rukh Khan — is thoroughly engrossing. Indeed, the dramaturgy brims over with humour while delving into the fan’s quirks which have inhabited his mindset, since childhood, like a malignant tumour.
Smile and occasionally guffaw out loud then, as Delhi’s man-boy goes nuts over his movie idol, imitating him to the tee-shirt. More: the bhakt replicates his ‘God’s’ dance moves, flings his arms akimbo a la Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, in the bargain winning amateur talent shows. In his everyday routine, there are no lows, except for the usual brawls at the cyber café he operates. And when his kindly parents fulminate, their laadla just has to ask, “Today, will you cook me rajma chaawal.” Awwww.
The script moves on to the Delhi boy’s ‘WT’ (without ticket) journey to Mumbai, in the quest of meeting up with his starry subject of desire. He checks into a squalid hotel room, simply because his ‘God’ had struggled it out there too. Ooo-oh. When an upcoming actor (Rose Pink Face) tries to downsize the superstar, the fan reacts violently. Next: Fanboy is thrown into jail. And goes pale, on discovering that instead of being grateful, the matinee idol is colder than an igloo. So far, so absolutely believable.
Fans are the factors responsible for generating an incalculable quantum of star adulation. That point is made with compassion. Lucklessly after that, the script’s reality-bites aspect screeches to a halt. The astute direction runs out of stamina. Logic is dead and buried (how come, the fan’s resemblance to the superstar, is never noticed by anyone?). Worse, post-interval you’re transported to La La Land, the locations shifting from London-Dubrovnik-back-to-London. Enough to give the world’s most seasoned traveller a serious case of jet lag. No wonder, the proceedings snore-‘n’-sag.
Jarringly, too, in the fan’s mission to wreak vendetta on the superstar, there are lapses into an awkwardly-staged fracas at Madame Tussauds, a Bourne Ultimatum-like marathon chase on Dubrovnik’s pretty rooftops. Plus, a nasty trick’s pulled in the course of the actor’s stage performance at an NRI-daughter’s wedding. Strictly cornball stuff.
The fan, however, is still eminently likeable. Meanwhile, the superstar oozes arrogance tempered with sad facial expressions, just in case the viewer believes that the lead player, Shah Rukh Khan, is as mammothly mean in real life. No image tempering allowed, harrumph.
Ergo, the scene gets schmaltzy and schmaltzier. The superstar must now protect his wife and kids from the fan-turned-slimy-stalker. Clarity of thought evaporates and you’re no longer absorbed, waiting for the 144-minuter to come to a closure. Please.
Much brouhaha is made over extracting the single word, “Sorry” from the superstar. No way, he won’t. Now this may be a brave stand to take in the context of a demand made by a right-wing party. But from a mentally unstable fan? The refusal amounts to narcissistic cussedness.
The ending is overwhelmingly defeatist. To prevent a spoiler alert, let’s say the superstar is glorified to the hilt. As for his devotee? Judge for yourself.
Technically, the Yash Raj production is a notch above the ordinary, but not exceptional. The music score by Italian composer Andrea Guerra is too loud and hectoring for comfort.
Oddly, the characterisations of the women are expendable. Waluscha de Souza as Mrs Superstar sleep-mumbles through two-and-a-half scenes. Shriya Pilgaonkar, in an underdeveloped role, discloses untapped potential. As for the British actors who suddenly pop up on the scene, they’re stiff as timber.
Obviously here’s a showcase for Shah Rukh Khan, who’s absolutely terrific as the underpup fan. As the superstar, he has his implosive moments but that’s it. At points, when he’s striving to transmit his real-life persona, a mask persists.
Suggestion: Fan has its tremendous highs and lows. Overall, the outcome’s good but..err.. to use that ‘sorry’ word…not great.