Fan Review 2: Spoilers! What is the Connection Between Aryan and Gaurav?

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?)

26 thoughts on “Fan Review 2: Spoilers! What is the Connection Between Aryan and Gaurav?

  1. so- just watched it

    SRK gave an acting masterclass, didn’t he?

    The only scenes which were a bit pointless were the two chase scenes (especially the one in Dubrovnik) but OMG, I thought the rest of it was quite en-pointe.

    With the rise of social media- it’s entirely believable that Aryan’s rep could be destroyed so quickly. Also, considering the way SRK gets treated whenever he travels to America, it’s entirely believable that he could spend a night in jail in a foreign country (especially when the govt in India is an unsympathetic one).

    Also- considering modern media etc- it was believable to me that in this movie universe that Gaurav could take a year, dedicate himself to coming up with a plan to take Aryan out and just throw himself into it wholeheartedly.

    Totally could also see Aryan wanting to keep everything secret- in the industry, even a hint of weakness can take you down. Especially with all the hints that he was already struggling (god, SRK was so brave to write that in, considering everything that’s been said, especially around Dilwale)

    All in all, adored it for SRK. It was the SRK show ALL THE WAY but boy did he live up to every expectation.

    WOW.

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    • Yes! To all of this! I was thinking while watching it, that this would either be the best or the worst film to show someone to introduce them to the Indian star culture.

      Best: Because it actually shows all the elements that go into it, the fans, the government, the international relationships, all of that.

      Worst: Because people who don’t know anything would think it is exaggerated! Because if you don’t know anything about Shahrukh (or Amitabh or Salman or Aamir or any of the others), you would think it was completely unbelievable.

      And yes about all the brave open commentary on his career! It must have been so frustrating, to know he had this brilliant performance that also acknowledges all his critics, just about to come out. And he had to listen to everyone talk about Dilwale as though he didn’t know about any of this, as if he was in denial or couldn’t do any better.

      I really hope this is a line in the sand, that he is acknowledging how stupid and superficial most of his other recent stuff was, so he can move forward into better and better work. Raees, so far, looks like it could be similarly awesome!

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  2. I think the other star is the guy who did the prosthetic make-up/face for Gaurav. Just amazing. Whenever I was wondering whether we were seeing Gaurav or not I looked for the shape of the nose, the bigness of the eyeballs and the shape of the left jawline. And of course at those ambiguous times the camera angles also gave a clue…

    Not a huge audience, maybe 30-40, but it was a 6pm timeslot. At the point where Gaurav burns all his Aryan posters/paraphernalia someone in the audience started applauding and all our heads turned in that person’s direction…

    So am looking forward to Raees.

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    • the make up artist was three time Oscar winner Greg Cannom. And I am also sure they touched up with Red Chillies VFX provided CGI.

      there were only about a dozen people in my theater, although I don’t know how representational that is because it is the first time this theater has played an Indian film and they did no promotion for it.

      I’ll be curious to see if the audience grows or holds steady. For Dilwale, the first time I saw it the theater was complete packed. But the next 5 times, including just the next weekend, it was pretty empty.

      Cannot wait for Raees!

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  3. For most Bollywood films the big cinema chain (Hoyts) that screens them here only screens them at one cinema with 2 sessions per day. Sometimes eg Dilwale and Prem Ratan Dan Payo – they screen at a second cinema complex, nearer to me (and easier to get to by public transport). This time they are screening Fan at a third complex where they don’t normally show Bollywood at all. The usual complex has 4 screening sessions, the one nearer me has 3 and the third has 2 sessions.
    However at the moment their website isn’t showing any screenings beyond this coming Wednesday – but that could just be their frustrating website…

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    • I got Sultan and Baaghi. I’d already seen Sultan on the little youtube screen, but I hadn’t gotten around to watching Baaghi yet. I kind of want to see it now! It looks interesting.

      Interesting that it is playing in a new theater for you as well. As I said, somewhere, it has about as many screens overseas as Dilwale, but it sounds like they are using the screens to go after a new audience, instead of just more shows for the existing one.

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  4. Normally, at Hoyts, with Indian/Bolly films distributed by Mind Blowing Films they only show trailers of Indian/Bolly movies but yesterday we also had trailers of the new Xmen movie and the new Avengers movie – can New York take any more destruction??!

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  5. The scenes of the crowds outside his home sent shivers down my spine. They were so clearly real- the real crowds outside Mannat. The complete madness of those people actually made me shiver.
    Also, the scenes where people were tearing down posters/images of ArK after the thing at the wedding- those were real too; those were from after the Nationalism issue.

    So this is what he lives; he really really lives this. I think SRK, Sallu, Amitabh- they’re the only ones with *this* level of madness.

    In some ways, I wish we had seen more of Aryan Khan (the character) but only because the character is at least 50% SRK.

    The darkness inside is definitely him, the alienation too; that conversation when he basically says “I’m a dilliwala too”- ufffff, yes he is. He is one of the few who came up on his own worth (him and Akki)- everyone else had some sponsor or other.

    God, the more I think about it, the better it is

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    • I just read/posted about an interview with the director. He said he had this idea for years, and if Shahrukh had said no, he would have had to take another 10 years and rewrite it. I can see how it could work for another star, maybe, but it really would need to be rewritten.

      I can believe that Salman and Aamir and Amitabh have similarly crazy fans, and can get similarly hardcore themselves when their family is threatened. But all the specifics of Delhi and coming from nothing, that all would have to be changed, because it only applies to Shahrukh.

      I’m watching it for the second time today, and I am so excited to see if there are more of those little touches that I can recognize as his real life!

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  6. Pingback: News Round-Up: Salman Makes Big Profit on Sultan, Announces New Heroine for Next Film. And Ritiesh is a Gentlemen. Oh, and Shahrukh’s next role might be AWESOME!!! | dontcallitbollywood

  7. Pingback: Fan Coverage Index | dontcallitbollywood

  8. Having just watched this: the scene that gave me chills was the first confrontation between Aryan and Gaurav in the Delhi jail cell. Aryan is so sure in his exercise of power, and Gaurav’s response – the imitation of Aryan’s line about his fans, and then “Gaurav makes Aryan” right up in his face – is such a crazed but potent challenge to the heart of the power that Aryan wields.

    I can see why this film might have struggled to connect. The questions it asks about fandom, specifically SRK fandom the way the narrative is built on his real life persona, are challenging and difficult and uncomfortable. That moment at the end when he’s looking down at the crowd and sees Gaurav, and we the audience are seeing that wild throng of fans through the prism of mad obsessive Gaurav, I had a thought of, is this what he really thinks of us? Are we all this threatening mass of wailing neediness? I mean, no, I don’t really think he does, but the movie turns a funhouse mirror on what it means to feel so devoted to someone you only see on screens. It’s a ballsy move to make a film that goes directly at your fans like this.

    I had also seen in interviews how he talked about the way the role of Aryan got to him, how he found himself crying when it wasn’t called for, and how he had to go out back for a smoke after that scene where he’s berated by the rich father and asked to please not have to repeat that scene. Watching the movie, I wasn’t sure I understood where that was all coming from, but reading these comments…it’s all the hard and ugly parts of his fame, right? The bowing and scraping to billionaires, the fans who go too far, the misguided controversies where the press seems more interested in destroying his reputation than in understanding and explaining the truth. We never get to see him building a role, or running the creative part of his business, or helping people the parts of his work and his power he seems to enjoy. It’s a whole movie of the unattractive bits.

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    • Oh man, that first confrontation, it’s so meta! Like everything he says to Gaurav could be said to any of his fans – “It’s my life, why should I give you even 5 minutes?” “There is no ‘our’ between you and me.” Brutal. And then Shah Rukh as Gaurav: “Without Gaurav, Aryan is nothing.”

      On some level it reminds me of Being John Malkovich. It’s like a dream where every character is some manifestation of you – the nightmare version where it’s really you and you’re reacting on some level how you would really react, but trapped in a loop you can’t escape. Shah Rukh star, arrogant and ruthless, vs. Shah Rukh fan, greedy and obsessive. It’s like he’s playing out the extreme version of a million interactions he’s had over his lifetime, playing it from both sides. It feels like a catharsis, or an exorcism.

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      • Fascinating point about the both sides. Shahrukh is one of the rare people who truly experienced fandom as a fan, before experiencing at as a star. Because he was a total outsider in an era when stars were already massive, unlike the early years when everyone was an outsider but the stars weren’t that big. Or now, when no one seems to be a true outsider anymore. Either they are born into it, or they are born into navigating in the star world (rich and living in Bandra), or they are born into being too good to be excited about something as petty as film stars (artsy intellectual stage trained types).

        From his talk about his childhood, he was just a kid on the streets, worshiping movie stars like any other boy in Delhi. And now he is that movie star being worshiped.

        On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 10:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I am so glad you are commenting! It’s really interesting looking back on this film from a distance.

      Such a complicated journey of self-loathing and fan-loathing all mixed up together. Perhaps what would have made the movie work would be if we saw one clean fan interaction to counteract Gaurav’s insanity, some part of the healthy give and take, the star getting strength and giving love. But instead, like you said, it was all the ugliness of it. Aryan didn’t fully understand how much Gaurav needed him, and Gaurav didn’t fully understand how little claim he had on Aryan.

      There was some talk around the release about Shahrukh making himself into a “hero” and so on. But it felt like that really missed the point of the movie. It was all his ugliness revealed at once, his humanity, and how ultimately he was just trying to he human.

      You are so right about it just being the ugly part of his life. Kind of the middle manager side, right? The billionaires above him from on high and he has to take it. The Fans make demands from down below and he has to take responsible with them. The media put in complaints from outside and he has to apologize and explain. And of course everyone hates him, those below resent him for having all the power, those above resent him for being uppity, and those outside resent him for not doing his job the way they want.

      On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 8:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes, I don’t see him coming out as much of a hero. That last speech to Gaurav, about how they’re not so different, he came from the same kind of family and the same place and worked his way up alone, he’s human. That part you could read as more heroic. But it doesn’t save Gaurav. What you said about the power of Gaurav’s fandom being ultimately beyond Aryan’s understanding or control…it’s the thing that made him more than just human, more than just another guy from Delhi, and he can’t let it go and go back to living his ordinary life. Aryan bringing himself down to make them equal is not what Gaurav wants from him, he wants the stardust, and he will have it at any cost.

        The other thing I meant to say is the home invasion scene, that is a desecration. The study is the inner sanctum of SRK fandom, it’s the glimpse we get of where SRK lives and works, it holds all the awards that confirm his greatness. Gaurav has invaded Aryan’s family, the intimacy of his homecoming with his wife, he’s held Aryan’s child in his arms, and then he grabs the red ukelele from DDLJ and smashes up the whole study! Those posters you know the value of, the costumes. Shah Rukh fan talks about the memories they represent for Shah Rukh star and how he as a fan carried them in his heart and his mind, and then he smashes them all to bits. As he’s waving a gun around and making terrifying statements like “It was a crime, he said. What I’m about to do is a crime.” The whole scene is scary and disturbing, and a violation of those moments and parts of his life that SRK has shared with his fans to create the bond he has with them.

        OK, done with my fast forward re-watch :). There’s a lot there, many layers for a movie that would read as a commercial action film here. I’d been looking forward to seeing this performance, it was better the second time.

        One last observation: the credits for Red Chililes VFX are very long! That’s a lot of people he has on payroll.

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        • Here’s another thing you are making me think about. Gaurav doesn’t seem terribly interested in Aryan’s wife or children. They are just hostages to get him where he wants to be. It is the study that interests him, the things of value to Aryan the star, not Aryan the person. But for Aryan, the study is upsetting, but it is the threat to his wife and children that really matters. Which is the same as way back at the beginning, the discussion of the up and coming movie star who is implying to the press that Aryan attacked him out of professional jealousy, only we learn it was personal, because he was misbehaving with his wife.

          The film shows a constant effort to erase the star as a person, that the fans and the media and even professional rivals only think of him in terms of his career, not his personhood. Which goes back to the ending, when he tries to convince Gaurav that he is just a person and Gaurav should let his fandom go, and Gaurav won’t do it.

          On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 11:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • And that must be the scariest thing to experience as a public figure. This discovery that people have stopped seeing you as a person and instead just as the figure they need you to be in their heads.

            Maybe this movie shows Gaurav taking his anger at Aryan-the-movie-star out on Aryan-the-person. Which is what makes Aryan hesitate at the end, the sudden moment of breaking through, of seeing the crowd below not through the protective mask of Aryan-the-movie-star, but as people, and himself as a person, and the fragility of his position, the illusion of his power.

            On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 9:10 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I think it’s Aryan’s journey as a character too. He starts out all star, all power and paternalism towards Gaurav (“you made a mistake and you had to be punished”). Gaurav’s attacks gradually break through the projection of star power that protects Aryan, until in that last scene between the two of them he sees himself and Gaurav as not very different, just two humans. You’re right that he seems more vulnerable in that last crowd scene too, looking down at ghost Gaurav.

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          • YES! Oh, that makes so much sense! Aryan has this clear divide between his public self, going out on his birthday, interacting with the police and arranging Gaurav’s punishment, his arrogance in his power even in London, and the soft kind vulnerable person we see with his family. Gaurav makes him see it is all an illusion, that power he felt going out there, the protection of his star persona, it wasn’t real, he could be hurt at any time. And his only defense was to convince people he was a human after all, it isn’t just a game. Which we see in his press conference, when he snaps at the media and tries to make them see that it is a real thing that is hurting real people.

            Which is also what Shahrukh struggles with in real life, and all celebrities. It takes a big thing for the media and public to start treating them as real people instead of dismissing it all as “fake”. Every time something happens to them, no matter how terrible it is, there are people saying “oh, this is all fake for publicity, don’t buy into it and feel sorry for them”.

            On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 11:36 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Exactly, that’s where it feels like this duality and his real life experience show through the character.

            I’m sure there are so many examples, but I remember in one video he talked about the rumors that Abram was really (his teenage son) Aryan’s and what that felt like as a father to have people think such a thing. Even though he kept his delivery light, it was just a gut punch.

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          • That reminds me of Karan in his memoir telling a story about some interviewer implying that he and Shahrukh have a sexual relationship, and him coming back with something like “do you sleep with your sister?” I may not be remembering the details correctly, but Karan was trying to convey that for him the Shahrukh relationship is something special and important in his life, Shahrukh is his big brother, and the way it keeps being implied as sexual is as hurtful to him as it would be to imply that someone else was sleeping with their sister. And yet it is an acceptable thing to ask him, because he somehow isn’t a “real” person. There are no lines you can’t cross, because celebrities don’t have feelings.

            On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 12:11 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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