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Great First Half, Silly Second Half: Fan

+1 vote

The simplest explanation for the second half’s identity crisis: the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer suddenly remembers that it’s a modern-day YRF production

Too many times we have seen films lose the plot after intermission—a concept as old as the movies that India, and a few other countries, have retained. Some call it The Curse of the Second Half. Some movies recover miraculously post-interval, like tail-enders winning a match after the team’s main batsmen have failed. In this series, we write about films that are half good, and half bad. Or the other way around. Thank god for the loo break though.


Gaurav Chandna (played by Shah Rukh Khan), a West Delhi boy, is a diehard fan of Bollywood superstar Aryan Khanna. His face also bears an uncanny resemblance to the actor’s. But things spiral out of control when Gaurav reaches Mumbai to meet his hero.

Why the first half works:

The first half of Fan is a near-perfect portrait of a simmering sociopath. It slowly reveals unchecked idol worship as a psychological disorder fanned by the comforting flames of middle-class parenthood. Gaurav leads an eerily ordinary life. He is pampered, he runs a small-time cyber cafe, and unlike most monsters in the making, thrives on social visibility and public validation. People in his locality view him as a harmless character – an impressionable youngster who, like millions in India, simply adores an iconic celebrity.

His father and mother indulge his boyish fanaticism, treating it as one of those cute adolescent traits that everyone grows out of. It isn’t hinted at, but they seem like the kind of folks who might have caved into Gaurav’s tantrum for a plastic surgery: The (skewed) visual effects almost allude to physical alteration, his skin smoothened to the point of artificial gloss. In a charming scene featuring the annual talent contest, his parents even serve as live prop masters, helping Gaurav craft his winning stage act: an interactive homage to Aryan Khanna. Because everyone around him playfully partakes in his obsession, Gaurav expects Mumbai to be just as considerate of his desires. He expects everyone, not least Khan-na himself, to welcome the purity of his passion.

The first hour presents Gaurav as a sheltered soul who gets systematically disillusioned by the pragmatism of the outside world. Like a child constantly shut down by adult party poopers, you can sense his bemusement: What do you mean I can’t meet Aryan? Why are you being so rude? The film doesn’t overplay the doppelganger card either. Gaurav is treated as little more than a vague lookalike – slighter frame, shriller voice – who has merely modelled himself on his favourite actor. His enthusiasm is both funny and sad; every time he faces rejection, one can almost visualize how his parents have protected him over the years.

More importantly, jarring similarities to the De Niro-starring The Fan aside, I’ve always looked at Fan as a candid Shah Rukh Khan confession parading as a double-role drama. The characterization is surprisingly self-critical. It seems to suggest that the 47-year-old Aryan Khanna, a fading and insecure superstar, is today’s Khan: smart, struggling to stay relevant, making news for all the wrong reasons (slapping someone at a party). But Gaurav is the ‘90s Khan: edgy, versatile, volatile and a risk-taker, effortlessly swaying between unorthodox hero and misunderstood villain. Maybe it’s no surprise that the first half – largely featuring Gaurav – is the best part of the film.

Why the second half doesn’t work:

One of the greatest tragedies of Indian cinema is that our filmmakers – owing to the commercial machinations of the  “interval” culture – are also trained to think in two halves. Scripts are written and ideas conceived to aid a film’s artistic duality. The simplest explanation for the second half’s identity crisis: Fan suddenly remembers that it’s a modern-day YRF production. Straight away, the “action” moves to foreign locales: London, then Dubrovnik. Writer Habib Faisal had a million options to examine the miffed-fan narrative, but the device to make it a “cool” overseas thriller (and ape the Dhoom franchise) trivializes the first half: Suddenly, Gaurav’s face becomes the plot point.

He impersonates the star, in full view of the public, at Madame Tussaud’s no less. He also becomes magically suave and agile, leaping across Croatian rooftops and breaking into Mumbai mansions. This idea – of framing Aryan by impersonating him – is a running motif in the second half, and one that is supposed to be seamless enough to incite the official authorities. The minuteness of the moments works – for example, the self-referential wink of Khanna dancing at a wealthy industrialist’s wedding, or even the pathos of Gaurav’s parents helping Khanna trap their deranged son. But the foundation is based on flimsy doppelganger deceit, the laziest trick in the book. This triggers a domino effect of smaller issues: The fickleness with which the media and Bollywood fans behave (imagine if they actually turned on reckless idols), the way Khanna’s Delhi ego surfaces, the way Gaurav alone fools an entire nation.

The film unfurls in a real world, with a real sense of psychology, but the suspension of disbelief required to mount the superhero-supervillain chase in the second half turns Fan into a tonal misfire. To make matters worse, the present (Aryan) defeating the past (Gaurav) is perhaps the unkindest cut of all. 

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in Cinematic Discussion by All Time best! (301k points)

4 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer

The only qualm I had from the second half was the lack of solid logical reasoning behind the whole 'Fan turning against his Idol' / revenge bit. The way it was commercialized in portraying is a different issue. I feel, even with a simplified portrayal of the story as is, minus commercial aspects would have netted the same result.

The Fan going over the edge, with the police beating him, and the rejection at the hands of his 'Idol' for me is not a solid enough reason that warrants going on a rampage against someone whom he had literally worshipped up to that point.

A sane person won't give in that easily unless there was some personal loss involved in it, sure he was insulted by his idol, but it was in person. Had Gaurav's emotional fragility explored a bit more, the existing storyline could also have worked, even with the commercial revenge bit in the second half, I feel. The problem was that Gaurav was anything but fragile, the Cyber Cafe scene in the first half is a proof of that, dude literally took on the goons by himself.

Hence the reasoning of Gaurav going over the edge was not solid enough to convince me as a cinegoer.

My Hypothetical script alteration, in Hindsight:

Imagine if fans of Aryan got to know about the whole beating up 'Sid Kapoor'(:p) & the police station episode, seeing how the whole ordeal brought bad publicity to their Idol, and they took the matter up to their hands and burnt up Gaurav's Cyber Cafe, stoning his house, injuring someone from their family in the process? I feel in that case Gaurav turning into a psycho stan would have made more sense.

I feel that would have made more impact on the whole revenge story. Commercialization could also be justified in that case, IMHO.

by Assistant Director (55.9k points)
selected by

kahen Ranveer ny dubbing to nhn kr di hindi mein??? LOL....must a terrible surprise


Its a good one, trust me.


done with research.....apni jaan ny dubbing ki hoe a must watch.....going for torrents if available ......thank you very much Zin


+2 votes

Exactly what I felt. The first half was the best for any SRK movie in recent years. The second half...the revenge bit, the chase sequences took the movie apart for me. Ultimately it was SRK's brillant act which worked overall, I particularly liked him as the insecure movie takes some guts to show stuff like that.

by Mega Star (225k points)
+1 vote

But what if I liked the second half more

by Super-star (194k points)

Seriously? Second half of Fan?


same Jatinder....same......

Suhas bhai, i did not expect it to be a real film or closer to reality knowing from trailer itself.....i knew it is going to be over the top.....and I was all in for that....loved the second half a lot more


Yes, @Suhas, It's been a while since I watched it but had zero problem accepting either the fact that fan went 180 against his idol or the fact there was high octane action in second half. fwiw, we did saw Aryan suffering from his back in chases and Gaurav was well a 20s boy, so he shouldn't be having a problem doing stuff physically. My only complaint was how is he doing all this financially, which I chose to ignore.

Also I loved JHMS in rewatch. ICYMI.


he sold his shop.....not that expensive travelling I believe.....London and Dubrovnik and then back to Delhi

0 votes

will watch this movie over any other movie from the last decade still
except for the mindless action sequences this movie is great and the reality of many people in this forum as well

by Casting Director (16.6k points)

i loved the movie too, It deserved much more that what ot got.

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