The Fan box office continues to drop, by the way. Which is making me feel a bit more relaxed about getting this summary done. Usually I try to do it in 1,2, or 3 parts, 4 at the absolute most, and finishing by the Wednesday after the film is released. But hey, no one but me is seeing Fan, so I might as well take my time and enjoy the experience!
I left off with the end of Gaurav-Shahrukh’s act at his annual neighborhood talent show. Now, he is sitting in the audience with his parents, anxiously waiting for the results. We heard a conversation earlier, which I forgot to mention, in which he explains that he has to win, because he needs the 20,000 rupee prize to pay for a trip to Bombay to meet Aryan Khanna, so he has a lot riding on these results!
Already up on stage are the second and third place winners. One of them is just a middle-aged guy in a turban, who could be imitating any number of famous Sikhs. But there is also a woman in an adorable version of Waheeda Rahman’s costume from Shatranj! In the original, it’s a super sexy skin tight bodysuit. But this version is just a grown up interpretation of a kid’s footie pajamas, all thick and loose and soft with a few peacock feathers stuck on the back. So sweet and innocent!
And, of course, Gaurav is announced as the winner! His parents cheer! He runs on stage! He grabs the microphone and says he would like to thank his mummy (cut to the audience to show his mother beaming at him), his papa (cut to his father blowing him kisses), and also his “God”, Aryan Khanna! And then he jumps up and down in excitement. It’s a little disturbing.
Not the thanking his “God” part, that actually seems fairly normal. If your whole deal is being a lookalike for a star, you would want to honor the star when you win the contest. No, it is his high level of excitement, holding his breath before the announcement, jumping up and down when he wins, and also the way his parents react, these completely ecstatic joyful faces. I mean, it’s just a local lookalike contest! And even if it was the Olympics, winning any contest shouldn’t give you quite this level of “birth of your first child” kind of joy. Notice, the adorable “Jungle Mein” dancer woman is not nearly as excited. Nor is the rest of the audience, or the announcer. Gaurav-Shahrukh and his parents see this event in their own peculiar way within their own little shared bubble. Not healthy.
We go from the contest stage back into the little family apartment, where the bubble effect is increased. Gaurav-Shahrukh bursts through the door, with his parents trailing behind him, declaring his plan to take the money and travel to Bombay to give Aryan-Shahrukh the award and a hug, for his birthday. His mother sits down across from him at their tiny table, asking why he doesn’t want to just wait a few days so he can organize a train ticket. Gaurav-Shahrukh replies that he can’t do that, because he has to travel for Aryan’s birthday, or it isn’t worth it. Besides, the first time Aryan went to Bombay from Delhi, he traveled “WT-without ticket!” This whole time, we can hear his father gargling water in the background, and occasionally interjecting his own comments.
It’s another little bit of a scene that is 90% sweet, 10% disturbing. Sweet, because they are such a nice supportive family in their little apartment with their little hopes and dreams. Disturbing, because of how his parents follow Gaurav-Shahrukh so blindly, literally following him into the apartment, but also unquestioningly following him into his fantasy, accepting that he has to travel “WT”. And it’s also disturbing because it is the first indication that Shahrukh-Gaurav has very clear ideas of how things will go and is unwilling to change them. Actually, we already knew that, we saw him right at the beginning struggling to allow the pretty neighborhood girl to use a computer after he had already planned to close early, and we saw him insisting on throwing those guys out of the shop himself instead of calling for help, and we saw him insisting on performing, exactly as planned, despite his injuries.
All of those were somewhat understandable concerns, he had to close early to make his rehearsal, he wanted to show off a little by throwing the guys out, he wanted to perform and win the money. But now, seeing how he is insisting on traveling without a ticket, and reaching Bombay in time for Shahrukh-Aryan’s birthday, it starts to snap into focus a little that this might be a guy who does not know how to just let go. And that his parents have encouraged and strengthened this tendency through their blind support.
The next day, he is excitedly packing his bag. His father is putting in extra underwear, in case he doesn’t have time to wash. His mother comes into his room with a box of sweets, and tells him to give them to Shahrukh-Aryan with their good wishes, and to make sure Shahrukh-Aryan knows that Shahrukh-Gaurav’s father bought them special. Shahrukh-Gaurav suggests that they show instead of tell, and pulls his parents over so they can take a family selfie in front of his wall of Shahrukh-Aryan pictures. He directs his mother to hold up the box of sweets, and his father to hide the underwear.
Again, same thing, this guy is a little too certain that everything will work out just as he planned it, and his parents are a little too encouraging of his dreams and fantasies. And they let themselves be bossed around a little too much. It’s one thing to be loving and supportive, it’s another thing to let your son direct you where to stand and what to hold in a selfie photo.
He puts on his bag and walks down the stairs of their apartment. There are multiple shots of him going in and out of this building over the course of the film. It’s a really nicely done shot, I can see why they keep re-using it. His family apartment is on a top floor, and the stairs go diagonally between the two towers of the building, back and forth and back and forth, with various personal items stored on the landings (plants, laundry, etc.). Showing how far he has to travel from his safe little life with his parents to even reach the street, how many layers of experience and community are in the way, emphasize how isolated and protected he has been. Similar to the idea of walking a labyrinth as a meditative practice, that you walk in to your deep inner self, and you walk out back into the world.
Once he reaches the street, a car pulls over and the pretty neighbor girl pokes her head out to ask if he is on the way to Bombay. He says he is, and she makes fun of him for going all the way there just to meet Shahrukh-Aryan. He replies “Forget it-You wouldn’t understand” (the first time this pivotal phrase is used in the film), and keeps walking.
And then we cut to seeing him, balancing his pack on his back while squeezed into the bathroom of a train, peeking through the crack of the door watching the conductor collect tickets. This is when one of my friends (who has stayed in Delhi) started hiding her face in my shoulder for the first and only time in the film, apparently the thought of trying to travel without a ticket in India was way more stressful to her than all of the death defying feats we will see later.
Shahrukh-Gaurav sneaks out of the bathroom and walks down the train aisle, looking for an open seat. He sees a large family sitting together taking up all the space, and passes them by. Then he sees a middle-aged couple sitting together with two seats to themselves, finishing their dinner. Actually, he sees them and the reflection of their dinner in the overhead mirror above the table. It’s a cool shot, and it makes the audience start thinking about dinner, so the next bit with the good guy makes sense.
Shahrukh-Gaurav sits down next to the middle-aged passenger, and starts talking to him, telling him that he is happy to move however the guy wants, they can share the seat, Shahrukh-Gaurav will adjust. The food guy comes by handing out dessert to the couple, and Shahrukh-Gaurav stops him and asks for a vegetarian meal. The food guy asks for his seat number, Shahrukh pulls off a 100 RP note and slips it to him, saying “100”. The food guy smiles, perfectly happy with this arrangement, and goes off. The middle aged couple looks a little uncomfortable maybe, and then the guy stands up and starts to edge out of the seat. Shahrukh happily moves out of his way, and even makes a point of taking his food tray and putting it in the aisle for him. But when he turns to set down the tray, he sees that the middle-aged guy is talking to the conductor and pointing back at the seat.
We already saw how Shahrukh-Gaurav acts when his kindly parents gently question his plans. But now we are seeing how completely blind he is to other people who may not agree with him. In his mind, offering to shift himself as needed so the other passenger can share the seat with him, being nice enough to move the tray, all of that means he “earned” that seat. He is shocked and a little betrayed that the middle-aged guy is complaining to the conductor about him.
This could be set up as a “picky passenger” thing, there are plenty of other movies where the unaccommodating seat sharer is the bad guy. But the way it was filmed, Gaurav is legitimately, not exactly disturbing, but unpleasant. He doesn’t ask if they mind if he sits there, he doesn’t try to engage with the couple at all, he doesn’t even pay attention to their clear body language signals that he is making them uncomfortable. It’s not that he is trying to take a seat without paying, it’s that he is being obvious and unpleasant about it. So I, and I think the director, are completely on the side of his fellow passenger, this is someone that the conductor should be alerted to, otherwise he is going to make the whole rest of the several hour trip just weird.
So now the conductor is coming and Gaurav-Shahrukh knows it. He starts to stand and move for the exit, but another group, police, come from the other side and he ends up trapped in the between the cars spot. He starts to try to explain to them that he can pay, he is happy to pay, but he doesn’t want to actually buy a ticket, he has to travel WT! He has to travel WT and he has to stay in room 205 of the Delite hotel! Just like Aryan Khanna did! And he has to do it today, because later would be too late. The conductor and the police are having none of this, and just tell him he is going to be arrested at the next stop and thrown in jail for a few days to cool his heels. Which is when he really loses it, grabs hold of the exit door, and swings himself off into space! Just like in Ra.One, but terrifying!
He has two hands on the handles by the door originally, but then the conductor grabs for him, so he lets go of one and is swinging out into space, telling them that he can’t go to jail, he has to be in Bombay for Aryan Khanna’s birthday, or else he might as well die! The conductor keeps trying to grab for him, to reason with him, saying that Aryan Khanna is just a movie star, that’s it! Gaurav-Shahrukh shouts out “To you he may be a star, but to me he is something different [kuch aur]!” Finally the conductor agrees, he can travel to Bombay, they won’t put him off, just come back in! Gaurav-Shahrukh pushes it, he can travel without a ticket? Yes! And he can get one vegetarian meal? Yes! And then he lets himself be pulled in.
So, I think maybe this guy is not entirely stable? The thing is, he didn’t look scared. That whole time, hanging off the side of the train, he wasn’t scared. He was excited, sure, but he seemed really ready to die if he didn’t get his way. And not just about being able to take the train to Bombay, but to take it without a ticket, and with a vegetarian meal. He was ready to die for the vegetarian meal.
The police and conductor also thing he may not be entirely stable. Once they pull him in, they ask “Why? Why do you have to travel like this? What is your relation to Aryan Khanna?” And Gaurav-Shahrukh pulls himself together, looks almost spiritual and touched by God, and says “Fan.”