Review: Maneesh Sharma’s Fan


Who could do this film but Shah Rukh Khan?

Conceptually, the basic idea propelling the narrative of Maneesh Sharma’s Fan appears deceptively simple — that of an obsessive fan, a bit of a cross between Misery and The King Of Comedy — and, judged from the surface, this film works like a slickly efficient Darr homage. Yet, behind the thriller-movie makeup it wears, there is so much more to Fan, a film that should be hailed for its satirical sharpness and for its subtle subversion. And it deserves to be celebrated for the way it allows the world’s biggest movie star to cleverly lampoon his own absurdly, inevitably inflated legend.

For this is a film where Shah Rukh Khan crowns himself his own greatest admirer.

Lookalikes don’t really resemble the celebrities they attempt to ape. Styled to accentuate a passing resemblance, they more often than not look like a wonky, wet-watercolour version of the real thing, something sculpted with less finesse and more raggedy edges. The fleeting moment of doppelgänger magic only takes place if and when they manage to find precisely the right light, the right angle and the right expression — for that one instant, the star’s the limit.

Limit isn’t a word too familiar to Gaurav Chandna, a West Delhi cybercafe owner who dreams Mannat-sized dreams. The young boy bears a squint-your-eyes resemblance to the country’s biggest star, Aryan Khanna, and it is this similarity that fuels his haircut, his body language, his hopes and deepest desires. The fact that both these characters are played by Shah Rukh Khan is a revolutionary move, immediately setting this film apart from films like The Fan that it may well have been inspired by. Chandna’s voice is thin, chirpy, eager, but it is when he puts on Aryan’s voice (the first words he mouths in classic SRK fashion are also, tellingly, the title of an underrated Shah Rukh film, “Dil Se”) that, despite his visibly being a low-rent clone, the crowd believes in him. They willfully hold the scales up to their eyes because they want, for a moment, to buy into even this blurry similarity.

Gaurav, on his part, believes solely in Aryan. His obsession with the star might not be purely platonic — he once shyly expresses a desire to be part of an item song with the superstar, and later refers to him as the love of his life — though it may have transcended such base desires. All he wants, he claims, is a hug. His earnest but naive methods to acquire said embrace are tremendously misguided, and a disgusted Khanna makes it clear he wants nothing to do with him. Having now found his supervillain origin story, the heartbroken and vengeful Gaurav decides to aggressively go after Aryan with all the rage of a lifelong devotee who has finally discovered his god’s feet of clay.

Sharma stays warmly and affectionately sympathetic toward the likable fan till he snaps, after which the film goes darker and yet begins to appear more conventional. Don’t be taken in — Fan is never a template film, especially when it begins most to resemble one. This a film full of long and elaborate chase sequences, but these exist both ironically, in order to skewer the constant implausibility of Bollywood action setpieces, and, more crucially, to blur the line between fan and star: Can anyone do what the man on the big-screen can? Yes, literally anybody can — and, for the most part, they can do it better.

Throughout the action there are clues to how blind faith in cinema steers you wrong. Gaurav, for instance, leaping from parapet to parapet in order to escape cops, begins to line up an impossibly filmi jump onto an air-conditioner grill only to be stopped in mid-air by a suddenly open window while a tubby cop lands on the grill and plunges to peril. In another action scene, set at the Madame Tussauds’ gallery in London, things escalate wildly while a near-perfect approximation of Salman Khan stands by waxily, watching and naturally doing nothing.

It is a well-crafted, finely cast film, with significant performances from actors like Yogendra Tiku and Shriya Pilgaonkar, set against that precise Delhi detailing Sharma is so good at. Cinematographer Manu Anand plays up both similarities and the lack of similarities between the two protagonists with great skill, his camera often slithering around them in compellingly framed close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots. There are times the film, written by Habib Faisal and with dialogues by Sharat Katariya, blurs the line enough for us to mistake one character for the other, and this is not lazy writing but indeed poetic. People taking pictures around waxworks of famous people, for instance, are only too glad to believe that the guy who kinda-sorta looks like an actor must indeed be The Actor.

The difference between the two SRKs is pronouncedly stark in one scene, but they completely, creepily, coldly turn on the exact same amount of charm in the next. Khan’s performance is an astonishing one, credibly creating both the young hungry-eyed kid falling back in an orgasmic swoon on beholding his idol in the flesh, as well as giving us the deeper portrayal of a superstar with such a fragile identity that depends far too much on perception.

Gaurav, amping up his efforts to humiliate Aryan, brings the heat to the narrative, but not nearly as much as Maneesh does, this film eating away at both the public image — and, more importantly, the public caricature — of Shah Rukh Khan himself. Aryan Khanna sits disgraced in a prison cell while a British goon stands and pisses a few inches away, while a few scenes later he’s convincing a wealthy businessman that he’ll perform charmingly enough to entertain every guest at a family wedding. The word bribe isn’t mentioned but the film star does give policemen money for ‘expenses,’ and much later, right after a painful police interrogation, instantly, instinctively, automatically agrees to pose for a selfie with a female officer.

The most scathing attacks may be saved, however, for those who misread. The film rightfully attacks the irresponsible and star-struck media scavengers through a smashing scene wherein a journalist tries to make a joke and Khan — sorry, Khanna (or is it?) — eviscerates her for laughing while they are speaking about a young girl being molested. And it deeply hacks away at the idea of the self-proclaimed superfan, an increasingly profane and vulgarly aggressive community in these times of social-media and constant online abuse. (To spell it out: Dear Salman fans who are already doubtless typing up swearwords based on how many stars this review has, please realise Sallu himself would not appreciate it. He might blush, even.)


Take a bow, Mr Khan. Not only for a phenomenal, genuinely groundbreaking performance but for being bold enough to give us the sight of a boy wearing painted-on abs while aping you dancing in a song where you, according to rumour, wore painted-on abs. For a glimpse at a worn out 50-year-old man — massaging his temples, and stretching at the lines on his face — before turning on the high-wattage smile and stepping out to market his myth.

Of course Shah Rukh Khan is his own biggest fan. It’s a rule that comes with the megastar territory, the need to believe in your own legend. What a film like Fan makes evident is that the rarified view from high up there may not always be the most pleasant. Especially when you’re looking at the fan in the mirror.

Rating: 4.5 stars


First published Rediff, April 15, 2016


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  1. wasif


  2. Sanchita (@fitoor_mera)

    I was awaiting your review simply for that literary analysis. My thoughts about FAN were a jumbled mess, so I needed this to order them, thanks.

  3. Kamaal

    Nice, detailed review and glad you liked it. A very good film and great written role and performance from SRK after a while. His upcoming films also look promising.

  4. binducherungath

    Luved reading ur review…

  5. Ritambhara Agrawal

    What a fantastic review, Mr. Sen. I watched the film today itself and came out of the theatre brilliantly impressed by SRK but had some reservations about the second half of the movie where I felt some sort of confusion happened with regard to the genre of the film (psychological thriller or action). I even wrote a review of the film ( but your reading makes me wonder about the film in more diverse ways than I already was so thanks for that!

    But I do agree that with this film SRK has managed to answer some of his fiercest criticism in only a way he could while putting forth some rather uncomfortable questions of his own as well!


    Thanks for your amazing review. :)

  7. Legend Aamir Khan

    crap of the year.

  8. param

    How much did raja bhai receive for this review? I’m guessing 5 lakhs.

  9. Tisha

    Its a fan review for sure. Tainted on so many levels. I am not even surprised but really well written. Good job!

  10. Harshal Tiwari

    Dude!! I always liked and trusted your reviews. Just because of your 4.5* I went to watch this movie, I really love my money and time when it comes to movies, movie is alright I mean it’s not crap crap but FOUR.FIVE STAR to this? I would not give more than a three star for this, but obviously I am not the critics here. But next time I will listen to my brain and not you before going for a movie. Really disappointed man.

    P.S- This is coming from a neutral guy who just like to watch good movies. Not a Salman, Aamir or anyone’s fan boy.

  11. Sangeeth

    For once, agree 100%!

  12. Sachin Pagariya

    What a exhilarating start good one man hope for films like fan you’re a very creative director as well as writer Iam the biggest fan of yours after viewing this film . I was slightly disappointed that jabra fan was not displayed in the film so please add songs in your next outing

  13. JabraFan

    Our reviewer misses so many critical points while toying with his literary skills. So I’d like to bring them here for him –
    a) Gaurav followed Aryan so much that he knows the room number 205 in Delight Hotel where the star stayed. But is amusingly unaware about the security outside Mannat when he lands up the first time. He tries to walk in as if the guards were transparent. Mind you, later though, when the fan turns psycho and poses serious threat on the star the same guard let’s him in, thinking he’s Aryan himself.
    b) The cctv footage in the wedding party shows both the star and the imposter. But of course that’s hardly a proof! Later the police accuses the star of misbehaving with the ladies. So does the rich family. Did they not want to see the footage which alarms the star and therefore leads to the never ending chase in the bylanes of Croatia?
    c) You need a serious gift to change shape at will and actually look like another person in the broad day light. Our psycho protagonist manages it everytime. Even to the star’s own family, friends, other fans and crew. Last time we saw this talent was in a blue coloured mutant called Mystique in X-men.
    d) There are endless loopholes in the script which are tiring as the film itself is. So I give up here.

    Yes, I’m a jabra fan of SRK that I saw in Swades and Chak De. But this one-by-two mode of SRK is just unbearable. Though I can’t blame him entirely. He’s tremendously hard working and diligent. Not to forget bold to let film walas make fun of his stature. It’s the makers of the film who seemed to have wronged both the megastar as well as the audience. Just like the never ending background score makes you feel. Do you know that the sound engineer downloaded it from Google. I don’t. But it certainly sounded like an infinite loop straight out of an intern’s MIDI player. Dear reviewer, tu nahi samjhega! 😂

  14. Jayesh Sharma

    Mr Sen, your site seems to have been hacked by Masand, or Khalid. They sure have stepped up the quality of writing, but the analysis is piss poor and, well, Fan-boyish. Unlike you, Mr Sen.

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