The Experiment with Identities

By Koral Dasgupta

Fan image

You are standing in front of the mirror. The camera approaches you from behind in slow motion, capturing you and your mirror image on the same frame. And a close-up of the same.


The face that is yours. The face that reflects on the mirror. Your most basic identity. People know you as you are because of that face. Your mannerisms and your mind. Your likes and dislikes. Strengths and weaknesses. Success and failures. Your personality. The face stands as a representation of everything that you are in all big and small capacities. That relationship with your face is deep. And personal.

And then one day, the same face stands facing you.

No, this time there is no mirror in between. It’s a different person altogether. The face also seems a little distorted. As if someone has done something to you to make you look different. Just that, the new face has another body too. His thoughts, habits, body language is much unlike yours. What would you do?

Perhaps there are only two options. First, you might feel that the new face is only an extension of yourself. You would nurture it, pamper it, love it, feel lost in it assuming that his basic values are same as yours and he must be appreciating you as much as you appreciate him. Second, you feel violated because of the cruel crime by the cosmos. What was once personal is now shared. The exclusivity is messed up. Your understanding with your skin is interrupted and interfered.

Gaurav Chandna represents the first option; Aryan Khanna explains the second. The film FAN has just attempted to raise more questions than what a two hour long script should.

Many have asked me in the last few days about my reaction towards FAN not raking those Shah Rukh Khan-isq figures at box office. As a fan myself, am I disappointed? Angry? I think SRK charm doesn’t work any longer? Do I think SRK needs different kinds of scripts? If yes, what would be my suggestions?

My answer, who the hell am I? I don’t even have that threatening self-destructive “identity” which can go ahead and demand an inch of Shah Rukh Khan! What I think doesn’t matter. What matters is how the star resonates in my brain.

Fan cover image

I am just another miscellaneous fan. Irrelevant, yet powerful. A fan, who is perceived to be nameless, faceless, inconsistent and wannabe. I can watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in loop, but that doesn’t make a difference to the star because he has moved on from that after 1998. He perhaps doesn’t understand my holding back, and I try hard to ensure that he doesn’t let go. We clash from a distance, just like Gaurav and Aryan did more dramatically. I keep loving possessively his generic postures, the same dialogues, raising hands, looking mushy, dancing perfectly and singing beautiful songs preferably play-backed by Abhijeet or Sonu Nigam. Restless with my binding expectations, the actor repeats himself. I cheer. Two hundred crores jingle out as breaking news on popular television channels and websites.

A film like FAN, which dares to disconnect from a usual “naam to suna hoga” type SRK repertoire, is too difficult a theory for someone like me, who already has a definition of Shah Rukh Khan in her brain. As the script explores the alternate, contrasting psychology of “identity” between two different people who look almost the same, I sit back and wonder where is that Jabra song that was promoted as an anthem!  

On second thought, some other voice inside me raises its head. It asks, was the film FAN really meant for the fans? Or was it Shah Rukh Khan’s open letter to himself?

I mean, what happens when your basic identity is challenged! That identity could be your country, your religion, your profession…or simply, your face. Loving all of which is equivalent to loving yourself! And in this space, Khan has been let down too many times. His identity with respect to his country, religion, profession, sexuality, has been questioned way too brutally in more occasions than one. And each time maybe, a part of his flamboyance has experienced death. The star still smiled and waved at his admirers from rooftop. And a part of his being looked up from below, lost in the crowd and bid final farewell.

Braving out a film of this calibre is Shah Rukh Khan’s success. The figures at the box office is the failure of his fans. This time they failed to comprehend the sentiments of their beloved actor.


6 replies »

  1. This is what I call: many words and little sense. And please do not take the right to speak on behalf of the fans of Shah Rukh. All fans that I know, and this is a very large number of people from different countries, all of them in full delight from the film and from the outstanding acting Shah Rukh. The failure of the film at the box office is not fault fans of Shah, they can’t put their brains in head every viewer. In India, 80% of the audience – brainless people who prefer to watch the garbage and trash is becoming a blockbuster. The success of Salman Khan the best proof of this. And most important thing that I can say about the citizens of India – you hypocrites, hypocrisy is your second nature, your skin. You like to shout about tolerance, but every action, every word proves its complete absence. You love to write that Shah Rukh can’t act so what I can say about the mind of people which don’t have proven his talent such films as Devdas, Dil se, Swades, Fan! You love to write that he repeated and criticize him when he does masala, although other actors do masala constantly and nobody criticizes, but when he does something else, a strong role and these films are too complex for brainless audience you’re writing that his film is flop and did not become a blockbuster and again pull down the name of Shah Rukh. You know what the only mistake Shah Rukh? He was born in a country that does not deserve him and you will never be worthy of this person. And for your information, not Shah Rukh wrote the script, not Shah Rukh is the director of FAN and I don,t know how many times he must repeat that Aryan Khanna is totally different from him! In this film was not Shah Rukh Khan, but of course, people who have never met Shah Rukh, never knew him, know him better than he himself.


  2. This is genuinely touching. For the first time I have read something that is sympathetic to what Shah Rukh Khan must be facing, when his identity from nationality to sexuality (you forgot comments on his mental status via mid life crisis analysis) is mocked/questioned.

    Some articles in this blog, itself tries hard to expose an ugly angry Shah Rukh Khan using a tone as if its a journalistic duty to disgrace a star, refusing to accept that its a part of his moods, or that he is falliable as the rest.

    I too had the perfect Raj of DDLJ as my first crush. I too experienced moments of cynicism and disappointments. Particularly after the painful disappointment called RaOne, which actually made me angry.

    Way before Fan, Shah Rukh spoke in Yale and in Think 2012 — it had bits that addressed the humungous identity issues before him. Do read them. They seem to scream “please understand me”…


  3. Your are totaly right it was shocking to see from germany how the fans of SRK let him down in india. Such a BO result is like a slap from the indian audience and his indian fans in his face – shocking!


  4. Fans make a star. Period.

    Fans never fail. Actor fails to keep up with them.

    Actor has right to move on after films. Fans do have s right too to move on. They did.

    Ur article is another attempt to exempt the king khan from the responsibility of his own film.


    • That´s nonsense, Ralf. Fan is a wonderful movie and SRK´s acting too . SRK is allways good, but in Fan he is outstanding.. Indian people dont deserve him. It is he, SRK, who makes indian films famous all over the world. Fan is such a film, it is loved and admired everywhere but in India. There you love these boring big stupidity like films of Salman and also other actors. In spite of this SRK is successfull with more difficult films and is and will be the biggest star of indian cinema all over the world. Fan is a problematic film, so it cannot have the success of a entertaining blockbuster. It is difficult and a lot of people in India cannot follow, I think. Their is an urban community, which went into Fan. So SRK will make the entertaining films too, but I hope we see him also and again in wonderful films like Dil se, Asoka, Swades, Devdas, Paheli, Chak de India and others. Some of these films were “flops”, because Indian could not understand. Fan was the highlight of all this. I want to thank Shah Rukh Khan for one of the best films I have ever seen (and I saw a lot).


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