'Fan' asks you not to worship Shah Rukh Khan, but respects that you do
If stardom is fickle, so is Fan-dom.
Mirrors are a recurring motif in Maneesh Sharma's Fan. Pay attention, and you'll be boggled by just how often you see material reflections of Gaurav (the fan) and Aryan (the star) through the film. The connection of this directorial choice with the plot may seem obvious, given that Shah Rukh Khan plays both roles.
Yet, the mirror actually finds resonance more with what lies beneath the surface of the pacy-but-average thriller that the film ends up being. For, beyond its dependence on contrived plot devices and convenient liberties, the film holds up a mirror to both, the star and the fan, and strips them bare to reveal what they are.
Fan has two big takeaways, and the relatively subtle one among them is that behind the glitz and glamour of stardom, there is an unbelievable amount of hard work. And further behind this hard work lies something supremely more difficult - the necessity and willingness to completely let go of one's dignity.
You'd think that Gaurav would be the tougher character for Shah Rukh to play, because of the obvious physical transformation. But the truth is that Aryan Khanna would have been equally challenging, if not more, because he is the most intensely personal character that Shah Rukh Khan has ever played. He gives us a glimpse of just how devoid of shame a mass entertainer like him must be. They have to swallow their egos and bow down to the rich, to the powerful, to the media, to even their fans.
In public, stars have no choice but to say that they are what they are because of their fans, no matter how fiercely they believe in private that they've achieved success only on their own steam. The star must please the fan, because if the fan is not pleased, then there is no stardom. The power of the star is only a mirage, because stardom is the most fickle concept in art and popular culture.
Then again, if stardom is fickle, so is fan-dom; and precisely this twisted relationship between the two is the crux the film.
Gaurav's obsession with Aryan borders on being a genuine mental health issue; but that's not the scary part. The truly worrying part is the fact that such star-obsession exists in real life as well. There are people who've devoted their entire lives to the worship of their favourite star, despite knowing that there's only a miniscule possibility of ever even meeting them.
In its more direct takeaway, Fan makes a commentary on this, almost appealing to the fanatics that instead of existing in the shadow of another person, one must strive to make one's own name. ("Change your display picture to show your own photo instead," the film seems to plead.)
At one point, Aryan tells Gaurav to his face that he must try to make something of himself instead of merely being a fan. The fact that Shah Rukh Khan agreed to say this in a film marketing itself as an ode to precisely that kind of fan, is as intriguing as the fact that YRF made a song-less film with SRK. (Think of how Yash Chopra's Darr would be if it had no songs, with Shah Rukh also playing the roles of Sunny Deol and Juhi Chawla.)
Fan humanises Shah Rukh Khan, because it brings him on a level with his fans. It could prove to be a double-edged sword, because there will doubtlessly be a number of people whose heart will break when they watch the film. ("Does my love for him mean nothing," they'd ask themselves.)
But, even deeper than all of this, perhaps in just the twinkle in Gaurav's eye when he's literally about to hit rock-bottom, the film essentially says only one thing about fan-dom. Judge the fanatic all you want, sermonize about the ills of obsession as much as you please, it simply doesn't matter; because if you aren't a fan, then you just won't understand it.
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