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.