Fanney Khan: A Mushy Pulp Sans Logic
Movie Review by Surangama Guha Roy (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
A film that brings together the likes of Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Rajkumar Rao offers, if nothing else, an interesting prospect. Yet, kudos to Bollywood for managing to take a relatively fresh subject and beating it into a pulp mushy enough to bring tears (read tears of frustration) to your eyes!
Adapted from the Academy Award nominated Belgian satirical comedy Everybody’s Famous (2000), Fanney Khan narrates the curious tale of a middle-class man attempting to realize his own tossed out ambitions through his daughter. Prashanth Sharma in his heydays had wanted to make it big as a singer. Yet, apparently, life had happened, like it does to so many of us, and Prashanth, who prefers to go by the name ‘Fanney Khan’ (because of the jubilant entertainer he still assumes himself to be), has ended up as a factory worker, connected with his dreams only through his daughter, very hopefully named Lata.
Lata, now, is an overweight adolescent with her own ambitions of becoming a pop star. She worships Baby Singh, the top pop star of the country, and daydreams of stepping into her shoes one day. Yet, like her father, Lata has her own demons to fight. For, each time she performs, her talent gets overlooked as her plus size takes center stage, so much so that until the very end the audience is left second guessing whether she even possesses any talent in the first place or is simply a hostile teenager with serious Daddy issues. She despises her father, presumably because he is a washed out, failed singer. Yet, she feels helpless as her own physicality comes between her and her dreams.
At this juncture, Prasanth’s factory goes into lock down and he is forced to drive a taxi. And who should he find at the back of his taxi one fine morning but Baby Singh, the famous pop star, herself?
Thus far the script manages to keep it together. The die has been cast, and anticipation builds. Yet, post-interval, the plot falters, dithers a bit, until it settles for a sharp nosedive and collapses all over the place.
Debutant filmmaker Atul Manjrekar has at his disposal a promising mix of star-actors apart from an engaging storyline. What messes it up is the writers’ (which includes Manjrekar) painstaking endeavor to cook up a preachy concoction. Thus, issues such as talent-always-triumphs, even-celebrities-need-a-life, body shaming (the only one that fits well into the narrative) and even Stockholm syndrome get thrown into the mix, only to be given a half-hearted treatment, thus keeping the film from being heart-felt and sincere.
Anil Kapoor, charismatic even as the aging cab driver, brings honesty to his performance. With his heartwarming smile and eyes brimming with tears of hope, he manages to stir the right emotions at the right moments. Divya Dutta is wasted as the sketchily conceived wife, although Girish Kulkarni as Baby Singh’s sleazy, Harvey Weinstein-ish manager delivers a praiseworthy performance.
The film’s so-called romantic duo, Rajkumar Rao and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan never quite get their chemistry working. Although, to be fair, Rao’s shining demeanor and perfect comic timing following the pop star’s kidnapping, is one of the high points of the film.
Her gorgeous red hair notwithstanding, Rai Bachchan as the raging, fed up diva, is unremarkable at best, never quite getting out of her own skin. The one person who does stand out though, is Pihu Sand whose Lata is as natural as it gets. Lata is edgy and grappling to come into her own, burdened not just with the struggles of adolescence but also with the humiliation that she faces as a result of being not-size zero.
For a narrative that revolves around singing, the film lacks a memorable sound track. The only song that makes any mark is ‘Mere Achhe Din Kab Ayenge’ composed and sung by Amit Trivedi, a soulful reminder of the common man’s struggle for survival.
What fails completely though is the script, and the director’s execution of it. Having made a promising start, the narrative drags in the second half, gradually losing all sense of direction, and becoming a tedious watch as it reaches the climax, which by the way, is as melodramatic as a 1970s masala flick and makes about as much sense as a run-of-the-mill Salman Khan starrer. Any semblance of logic went out of the window the moment the director decided to revert away from realism or satire.
What stayed with me as I walked out of the theatre massaging my throbbing temples was the image of a chubby young girl dancing away breezily to her own tunes, filling your insides with a fuzzy warmth. For such sights have been few and far between, in mainstream cinema!