Shahrukh Khan’s dual role highlights the dangers of celebrity obsession in the smart thriller Fan.
Gaurav Chandna (Khan) is a lifelong fan of actor Aryan Khanna (also Khan). Twenty-something Gaurav bears an uncanny resemblance to his hero, albeit a bit skinnier and with a smaller nose. The physical similarities and a carefully honed impression of the star make Gaurav the reigning champ in a local talent competition, three years running.
Leaving behind his mother (Deepika Amin) and father (Yogendra Tiku) in Delhi, Gaurav heads to Mumbai to present his talent show trophy to Aryan as a birthday gift. It’s harder to meet the star than Gaurav expects, so he finds a more effective plan to get Aryan’s attention: assaulting the up-and-coming actor who’s been stealing Aryan’s spotlight.
Aryan himself is known for his temper, and his attempt to scare Gaurav straight backfires. How do you fight someone who looks just like you?
Given that this is a movie about an actor endangered by a fan — starring the same superstar in both roles — one might expect Fan to side squarely with Aryan. Writer Habib Faisal’s story is more complex than that, however. There’s an element of “celebrities are people, too” to the story, but Gaurav’s character is richly developed. The temptation to tell Gaurav to ditch his obsession and get a life ignores the fact that he has a life. He enjoys impersonating Aryan. His obsession defines him. Trying to brute force his devotion out of him won’t work.
The relationship between celebrities and their admirers is the backdrop to a real thriller. A foot-chase through Dubrovnik is especially exciting and takes advantage of the gorgeous scenery. The movie is great-looking overall, thanks to director Maneesh Sharma and cinematographer Manu Anand.
The only time the movie falters is near the end. The pacing slows so much that the audience is out of steam by the time the climax arrives. While the climactic nighttime setting is striking, the darkness makes the action a bit hard to follow.
One easy-to-miss shot in Fan is worth noting. During a man-on-the-street montage of citizens reading news, members of a movie theater audience are shown checking their phones. Including a shot like this only serves to normalize this frustrating behavior. Doesn’t director Sharma want the audience to pay attention to his own movie?
Khan does a wonderful job with both roles. It takes a while to get used to the makeup and CGI effects used to turn him into Gaurav, but the character is well-crafted. Same goes for Aryan, who is less complicated but who is forced to make the harder decisions.
It’s fun to see Khan back in roles that emphasize substance as much as style. Fan is a thought-provoking thrill ride.