The critics' verdict on Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan had one thing in common: everybody couldn't help but love the actor's performance in the film. By their words, most reviewers including me were delighted and also somewhat relieved to have Shah Rukh the actor back.
He got lost a bit, like the kid who is busy collecting candy and doesn't realise that too much of it is not good for his health. Yes, we missed SRK.
The last few years Shah Rukh's filmography included Ra.One, Chennai Express, Happy New Year, Dilwale, films which don't have us remembering SRK the actor. That's SRK the entertainer. There is a difference.
As Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would say it, a huuuuge difference. Those films were fast-food pickings, Fan in contrast feels like a fine-dining experience.
If you are living on planet Earth, chances are that you are acquainted with someone who is a diehard SRK buff. They will tell you that he is the greatest thing to have happened to Hindi cinema. But even some of them have been disappointed with SRK lately.
|Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in Dilwale.|
A couple of days before my scheduled interview I asked two of them if they had any questions for their favourite actor. One, who I'll call Gaurav (because why not?), wanted Shah Rukh to verify rumours that he is doing films with Imtiaz Ali, Aanand L Rai and Shimit Amin and that if he isn't then to tell him to do them.
So my first interview with SRK and I'm supposed to tell him that "Hey Shah Rukh, you better sign these films or else you will have an unhappy fan." But really all this Gaurav wanted was for Khan to take a break from Farah Khan and Rohit Shetty and return to the good old days of Chak De! India, Swades, Paheli, Devdas to name just a few good SRK films.
The other, based in Myanmar, wanted to know how Khan strikes a balance between commercial diktats of Bollywood and satisfy his creative pursuits while making a film. This fangirl was frustrated with his choices lately, unable to understand what was her favourite actor thinking when he was not only starring but also producing these films. She wanted the SRK she fell for back. Rahul/Raj, where art thou?
|Fan's motion picture.|
That's what Fan does. It reminds you why this outsider caught our attention in the first place. He paved a way for himself against all odds, by making choices that people would consider outrageous. He didn't let failures dissuade him. And here he is at it again.
Make no mistake, Fan is an exception in Bollywood. It's a Yash Raj film with no songs and which goes to a foreign location not to shoot a duet in which SRK can romance a heroine but for an action sequence. It has a super meta premise - a disgruntled fan decides to remind his favourite actor who's the boss.
Watching Shah Rukh's Gaurav I was reminded of his portrayal of Sunil in Kabhie Haan Kabhie Naa, a clip of which appears in Fan as they recap Aryan Khanna's career. The underrated Kundan Shah film features my favourite performance of SRK. His loveable loser act is so endearing that you are willing to overlook his fallibilities and root for him.
|SRK with Suchitra Krishnamoorthi in Kabhie Haan Kabhie Naa.|
[SPOILER ALERT AHEAD] I was devastated when Suchitra Krishnamoorthi picks Deepak Tijori over him. (Is that even a choice?) Shah Rukh's Gaurav is flawed but even as he takes a villainous turn you feel for him, understanding that rejection is a bitter pill to swallow.
A fan has expectations of his idol. With the film what filmmaker Maneesh Sharma with the help of writer Habib Faisal and visual effects accomplishes is fulfil some of these expectations of SRK fans. Audiences get a Khan in many shades: one who is vulnerable, sombre, persistent, despondent, enthusiastic, demanding and adamant.
Critics have liked Fan, if not wholeheartedly loved it, which is great but what Fan really needs is for the devoted SRK fans swarm to theatres in droves to support their actor deliver a career-high performance. To bestow trust in their actor's efforts and pluck.
Fan may not hit the Rs 150 crore mark - and if it will it will be solely because of SRK - but what it will do is win him respect and admiration for his leap of faith. Let's for a change pretend that filmmaking is an artistic medium and not a money-driven business. Let's welcome back Shah Rukh even though he really never went anywhere. That candy-loving kid is now balancing his diet with kale and chia seeds.
And if you still don't think SRK in Fan is fantastic, then "Rehne do, tum nahi samjhoge".