Shahrukh himself is very open about how he doesn’t really “act” in most of his movies. There are 4 that he consistently cites as performances he is actually proud of: Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Swades, Chak De, India, and My Name is Khan. ICha’ll probably talk about all of these films at some point, but for Fan week, I want to talk about Chak De, because it shares the most with Fan.
Right off the bat, it shares a setting. The fact that both Fan and Chak De take place in Delhi, instead of Bombay or New York or London or Amritsar is really important. Delhi isn’t Bombay, it’s not all about Film and glamour and international business. It’s a little more tied to the Indian government and Indian issues. Chak De certainly was. And it looks like Fan is going to be using the way that Delhi and Bombay interact, or fail to interact, to establish its main character. He idolizes “Aryan Khanna”, but from a distance. Traveling to Bombay to actually meet him is a big deal.
But more importantly than that, Delhi is where Shahrukh is actually from! When he plays a Delhi character, he is playing himself. That is close to his real natural accent, his real natural fluency with Hindi, and his real natural background as someone from a big scary city, a city that (in some ways) is a little scarier and tougher than Bombay. And where fame is a little less common and a little less sought after.
In Fan, I’ll be interested to see what they do with the idea of his split Delhi versus Bombay identity. In interviews, he has talked about how he feels like he has to be “Shahrukh Khan-STAR!” when he is in public, but how that is a very different person than simple “Shahrukh Khan.” Shahrukh Khan is who he was back in Delhi, the nice guy who’s mother ran a sweet shop, who was a fan of Mumtaz, who went out for soda dates with his girlfriend. “Shahrukh Khan-STAR!” is who he became as soon as he moved to Bombay, fast-talking fun interview, rising star recognized on the streets, friends with all the movers and shakers in the industry. And now here he is in Bombay decades later, the king of the city, unable to move without being mobbed by crowds, very different from the simple Delhi boy he was at the start. And that’s what we have in Fan, his simple Delhi boy from the past, a character the same age he was when he first arrived in Bombay, confronting Shahrukh as he is now. I mean, it’s obvious that’s what they are going for, the first song trailer was released at Shahrukh’s old college, where he studied when he was just an average unknown dreamer, just like Gaurav!
(I just found this picture, and I love how goofy he looks. It really is like seeing dorky undergrad SRK getting his diploma! He’s more excited than when he got the Legion of Honor!)
(See?!? Excited, but not “Oh my gosh, my college diploma!” excited)
In Chak De, India, we see a similar past-future dynamic, but within the same character. Look at how it opens. We see Shahrukh as he was when he was riding high. Captain of the Indian hockey team, confident and beloved, quick to anger and defend himself. But then years later, he has become someone complete different. No longer famous, no longer powerful, all he wants is to redeem himself in the eyes of his neighbors, to sink back into Delhi anonymity.
Besides the Delhi setting, Fan and Chak De also seem to have a similar idea of the dangers of fame. How love can turn into hatred in a moment. I am wondering, the quiet and kind of worn down “Aryan Khanna” that we are seeing in the trailers, is that him after it has all gone bad? Will we have a similar few scenes as in Chak De, establishing his confidence and charisma and then immediately destroying it? Or, even more interesting, will we merely get a briefly sketched in backstory, something about how he has driven away all those who love him after [blank] happened?
It won’t be a communal prejudice, as it was in Chak De, I assume, since he is once again playing a Hindu character. But I would be interested in they bring in some of the other challenges he has dealt with in his real life fame. Something about a political comment that went awry, or a film that flopped when it wasn’t supposed to, some reason that he has become more cautious and controlled.
But mostly, I just want to see him actually act again! He’s right, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Swades, Chak De, India, and My Name is Khan really are on a different level. And I want to see him reach that level again! Whether he makes it or not in this film, at least he is trying.