You ready for the spoiler-y review? It’s mostly going to be about the ending and how they heck it makes any sense. And if there was any other way they could have done it that would have made sense.
Everything about this movie was brilliant. But what really stood out was Shahrukh’s performance, and the script. The script is listed as being written by Habib Faisal. Based on his filmography, he is a good workmanlike writer, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Baand Baaja Baarat, Daawat-e-Ishq, etc. All Yash Raj films I think, I’m picturing a guy typing away in an office somewhere on the studio lot, cranking out whatever interchangeable rom-com is requested.
But, this script is way way beyond anything like that! I’m going to go ahead and wildly speculate that Aditya Chopra actually wrote the script, or at least conceived the story, and then just had Habib dot the Is and cross the Ts. Because not only is the central theme brilliant and original, but it is outlined and constructed just right.
The conception, just the idea of Shahrukh playing both a character clearly based on himself, and his own fan/lookalike, is super awesome and original. But then it is designed just so. We start with Gaurav, we see his life, and how he takes strength from his “connection” with Aryan Khanna, how everyone in his life tolerates and understands it. There is just the slightest indication that he is a bit extreme in his beliefs, that he takes things slightly too far. But not that far, it is mostly just sort of sweet and adorable. And we get sucked into his perspective on this relationship, that his extreme devotion really does mean he deserves something extra special from the star when he meets him. Our excitement builds and builds along with his, and our hearts are broken along with him when it doesn’t live up to expectations.
Just when you are ready to hate Aryan Khanna for being so unfeeling, suddenly we see him with his family. With his sweet kids that he plays with, with his assistant that he respects, and with his wife. Most importantly, we get a glimpse of the dark side of his life, and how he has to be even darker to stay on top. The story reported about him hitting a junior actor merely for wishing him “Happy Birthday” turns out to be because the actor was pestering his wife, and he had to hit back to defend her. Or did he? The same sympathy we have for Gaurav with that undercurrent of “wait, is that going a little too far?” is now present with Aryan. Did Aryan teach Gaurav to act like this, to be a little too independent and strong and determined to have his own way? Or is Gaurav his fan because he felt they had this in common?
This is the problem for the rest of the film. Aryan hits an actor for hitting on his wife, Gaurav beats up the actor for badmouthing Aryan, Aryan has Gaurav arrested under the table and sent home, Gaurav manages to have Aryan arrested in turn, Aryan decides to dedicate himself to finding and destroying Gaurav rather than going to the cops, Gaurav decides to keep on his own revenge quest even though he has already succeeded in his initial goal, Gaurav goes after Aryan’s family, Aryan goes after his, Gaurav tries to shoot him, Aryan tries to beat him to death. They both just can’t quit.
I think there are two statements here. First, that this is the nature those who become stars. That they have to have something a little mad inside of them to keep them going. That being a movie star means constantly being ready to man the barricades and fight off your enemies, whether it is the rising star who comes on to your wife, the London police officer who belittles you, or even the Indian ambassador who helps you but fails to be appropriately respectful. It sounds self-indulgent when I put it like that, like this is how SRK wants to see himself, but really, that is the nature of stardom in India. It’s a real “with great power comes great responsibility” kind of thing. Or, more accurately, “with great power comes constant attacks and threats.”
And secondly, that the act of being a fan will also make you mad. But it is a beautiful madness. A holy madness. A madness that is stronger than the object of it’s worship. At the end of the film, Aryan tries to talk sense back into Gaurav, to give him his view of the world, where he is just a man, like any other, who worked hard and continues to work hard and that is all he is, no better than Gaurav. But in response,Gaurav simply says “Tum Nahin Samjhe.” The star himself can’t quite understand the madness of the fan, the beauty of it, the power of it. Finally, in the end, the fan is bigger than the star.
(also, do you think they told the fan in the promotional video to use that phrase, or do you think she said it and they decided to put it in the script?)