Fan Review 3 (SPOILERS!): Who is Gaurav Really Trying to Hurt?

I watched Fan for the second time last night, which means I am almost ready to start my spoiler-y summary.  But in the meantime, there was something else I started noticing that I wanted to give its own post to analyzing.

When Gaurav comes up with his revenge plan, he says that he wants a Star to run after a Fan.  He also quotes several times a line Aryan has said, about how he is nothing without his fans.  The simplest interpretation is that he is trying to destroy Aryan by removing his fans from him, in a gesture of poetic justice.  Teaching him the truth of this saying he has been mouthing without really believing it.

But, the film doesn’t quite support that interpretation.  For one thing, besides his treatment of Gaurav, we never actually see Aryan be disrespectful to a fan.  And his treatment of Gaurav is understandable within the film.  He really shouldn’t have given him 5 minutes of his time, he can’t do that for every fan.  And he shouldn’t do that as a reward for violent and crazed behavior like that Gaurav showed.

Certainly, Aryan’s refusal to say “sorry”, and his insistence on handling the Gaurav threat himself say something about Aryan’s personality.  But the flaw is not a lack of appreciation of his “fans”, it’s a general unwillingness to ask for help or reveal weakness.  So, why is it that Gaurav decides to punish him by removing the love of his fans, if that is not the personality flaw that actually needs to be fixed?

I think that, no matter what Gaurav tells himself, the attack is not on Aryan, but on the other fans.  Think about how the first two incidents are shown.  At Madame Tussaud’s, he is first noticed by a little girl, who stares at him with wonder, and to whom he winks, gently letting her in on the joke and drawing her closer to him.  And then that same little girl is shown being disturbed and unhappy by the turn his actions take, as her innocence and faith are destroyed by ugliness.

The same thing happens in Dubrovnic.  We see this very young woman, from the dialogue apparently not even the bride at the wedding, mostly likely a teenage guest, who is ready to enjoy a simple and sweet romantic fantasy of dancing with Aryan.  But when the dance turns sexual, her reaction is the same as that little girl, confusion and heartbreak.  Innocence destroyed in the ugliest way possible.

Of course, the obvious first thing to think about with these incidents is how they relate to the real life scandals the stars have dealt with.  Salman’s violence, Aamir and Shahrukh’s political statements, Sanjay’s criminal connections, etc.  And none of them felt quite the same as what we were seeing on screen.  And then I realized that, for me, it felt most similar to the Bill Cosby scandal.  Not simply a matter of them doing something wrong, or hateful, but a revelation of a deep sickness and ugliness which forever poisons who they are to me, and destroys the part of my life that revolved around them.

Gaurav (and of course the script writers who dictated his actions) could easily have chosen to use a scandal like Salman’s or Shahrukh’s in real life to tarnish Aryan’s image.  He could have simply said something anti-Indian at Madame Tussaud like, I don’t know, “I like London better than India because India is dirty and smelly.”  Or he could have simply punched his host at the wedding.  Those incidents would result in protests, in boycotts, we know that because that is what happened in real life in response to such occurances.

But instead of something clean and simple like that, Gaurav decided to turn Aryan into a perversion of what he should be, a magical surprise appearance descending into anger and hatred, an innocent dream of a young girl changed into something sexual and dirty.  He chose to do things which would most damage the fandom, which would not just cause them to hate Aryan, but to hate themselves for ever believing in him, which would color their memories, which would destroy their ability to believe in anything or anybody from now on.

And I think that is why Aryan decides to hold a press conference, finally.  Because he looks out the empty stadium and sees not just how his power has diminished, but how every seat represents a broken heart.  And that is why he stops in the press conference when he begins to say his usual “I owe everything to the fans” speech.  Because it’s not about what the fans owe him, it is about what he owes them now.  His protection, his promise that their faith was not misplaced, that they should not doubt themselves or allow themselves to be hurt any more.  And that is why he attacks the reporter who tries to turn it into a joke, because it is not a joke for his fans, for the ones who had their innocence and faith destroyed.  Maybe to a cynical reporter none of this matters, but for the millions of people who find strength in believing in him, it does.  I also think this is why the attacks we see are through the eyes of young women, those most powerless, most innocent, most unable to protect themselves, and most in need of a simple faith.

Gaurav may tell himself that he is attacking Aryan, getting revenge on him, but in reality he is trying to make other fans hurt as much as he does, to find companions in his own pain.  And his final act is to destroy the most innocent and pure of these followers, Aryan’s own daughter.  He doesn’t just make her a hostage, or threaten her, he destroys her faith in her father.  Her mother reports that she is asking, “why did Daddy break his own study?” and that is why she and her brother have been sent away to their grandparents.  And that’s when Aryan knows how best to get back at Gaurav.

It’s not about threatening him or beating him up, it’s about similarly removing his followers’ faith.  Wooing away not just his would-be girlfriend, but the crowd he is used to having cheering for him.  That is the real attack, destroying the faith of his own fans.  Gaurav can survive any physical attack, any machinations, even a threat to his own parents, without giving up.  But once he sees “his” crowd cheering for someone else, that is when his heart breaks.

10 thoughts on “Fan Review 3 (SPOILERS!): Who is Gaurav Really Trying to Hurt?

  1. So good! I also believe that the connection between G and A is the real main character. Aryan wants to break it (to live his own life) and Gaurav wants to make it last forever — even after he dies. And Gaurav wins.

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  2. Wow.. Your review is superb. I noticed some thought was awesome about the movie but i could’nt analyze it before reading your review.

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  3. Pingback: Fan Coverage Index | dontcallitbollywood

  4. This is kind of odd movie. I like it very much, and I’m proud that SRK decided do this film and don’t know why it was a flop. But on the other hand I can see why some people didn’t like it. While watching I was wondering how it would be with Aamir insteed of Shah Rukh, and I’m sure it would be more succesful (but no because A. is better, on contrary I think SRK is better , but maybe people are more used to Aamir doing different kinds of movies and were confused with Shah Rukh doing something like this. What do you think?).
    I appreciated almost all things : the story, CGI, the courage of trying do something different, and Shah Rukh’s acting. He was phenomenal. I especially love the scene when Aryan came to this talent contest and was doing Gaurav. It was mind-blowing for me.
    But what I found confusing was that SRK was not doing some random movie star, he was playing himself. With other name, but using his iconic stage props, his real house, choreography etc (little changed but almost the same). This made the movie richer, but at the same time perplexing. Because when the movie was over, I was angry and disappointed that he is not this perfect hero I wanted. And that is, in my opinion, what people hated about Fan.

    But what I didn’t like was that people started hate Aryan because he molested a girl at the wedding and not because he attacked people with a gun, and took one woman as hostage.

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    • For the last point, I didn’t like it either, but it is sadly accurate. Not just that violence can be forgiven more than sex stuff, but because the violence was in Madam Tussauds against “regular” people, but the molestation was against a wealthy young Indian woman.

      I like your idea that Shahrukh playing himself might be part of what made it unpopular. Because it is confronting us with the unpleasant reality that he is a real person, who sometimes has angers and desires and ugliness inside, not just the perfect star we want.

      I also think you are right, in general the audience is more accepting of Aamir breaking out and doing his own strange thing than Shahrukh. Only, I can’t imagine him agreeing to play Shahrukh, and I can’t imagine the film working with him playing himself instead of Shahrukh, he just doesn’t have that kind of fam following.

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      • You’re right with Aamir.

        And the part about violence vs sex. It made me angry that people were like “Oh, he threatened some white woman in London, who cares?” and “He touched Indian girl, he should be burnt alive for this”.

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