Yaaaaay! It’s over! I actually finding the ending of the film the hardest to watch, whether I am watching it in the theater or in my head while I write these summaries. Maybe the reason it has taken me so long to get here is because I am trying to put it off?
We left off with Aryan-Shahrukh swearing to take the fight to Gaurav-Shahrukh, to remind him that at heart he is also a “Dehliwalla.” Of course, Gaurav-Shahrukh had just broken into his house and threatened his wife and children. So a little anger can be forgiven.
I think what bothers me about this bit is that, once Aryan-Shahrukh really starts to fight, he so outweighs Garuav-Shahrukh, that it isn’t even fair. We’ve seen that all along, to some degree. Aryan-Shahrukh can have him picked up and held for as long as he wants in a Bombay jail. He can call one press conference and immediately squelch all the rumors. Gaurav-Shahrukh’s only protection is the “connection” that Aryan-Shahrukh claims doesn’t exist. Because, whether or not Aryan-Shahrukh is willing to acknowledge it out loud, there is a connection. Both in the sense that he feels responsible for Gaurav-Shahrukh, and that the press would perceive a connection between them which means that publicly smearing Gaurav would also smear himself. He has already snapped that second connection, deciding that it is time to have a press conference and go public with what Gaurav-Shahrukh has done in his name, but now he is snapping the second link, the idea that Gaurav-Shahrukh deserves any mercy or pity from him. Sure, it looked like he had already snapped that, when he went after him in Dubrovnik, but that was just trying to hurt him physically. Now, he is going to use his talents, his intuition, his brilliant mind, to find the way to really break him.
(Speaking of horribly unfair fights, and “I will break you” moments.)
But first, we see how his last actions have already hurt Gaurav-Shahrukh, the snapping of their public connection. Gaurav-Shahrukh is sitting in a hotel room somewhere, watching TV, as all the various talking heads explain that Aryan-Shahrukh has completely redeemed himself following the press conference in London, where he presented proofs of a lookalike, and everyone believes him now, and his fame and public image is back on track. Gaurav-Shahrukh is watching, big eyed, sort of braced on his bed. He doesn’t really know what to do next, where he can go from here. And then his phone rings he sees it is “Mummy” and doesn’t answer. He watches the TV a moment longer, and then when it rings again, he picks up. His sweet mother is on the other end of the line, asking where he is, how he is. Gaurav-Shahrukh says he is fine, “busy”. Mummy says that someone is here with them, and the camera pulls back from her face to show Aryan-Shahrukh sitting in their living room. Gah! He’s going to kill these nice old people!
Or, maybe not. He takes the phone from Gaurav-Shahrukh’s mother, and says “hello” to Guarav-Shahrukh. Gaurav-Shahrukh immediately gets bug-eyed and scared, asking what he is doing there with his parents. Aryan-Shahrukh gets up and walks away from the living room into the kitchen, switching his tone and language as he walks, saying “If I was like you, you dog, I would have your mummy and papa by their throats as punishment for what you have done to my family.” Gaurav-Shahrukh replies by asking “I went into your home alone, did you come into mine with your army?” Aryan-Shahrukh responds, “I am alone [implied or explicit is, ‘I don’t need anyone else to beat you up’]” He is standing in the little kitchen of the apartment, with a window behind him, and little porcelain cups and plates neatly stacked behind him. The light scheme is all bright and reds and whites and yellows, except for Aryan-Shahrukh’s dark grey and black clothes. The camera is up close to him too, making him feel almost too big for this space. It’s a great visual, supporting the oddity of someone like him being in a tiny little apartment like this, and also the immense power he wields over common folk such as these, with their little tea cups and tiny windows.
(Little tea cup)
Meanwhile, Gaurav-Shahrukh is fading into the background of his hotel room, in earth tones, surrounded by greens. He is small against the background, stretched out on the bed with space to spare, standing in front of a huge window that his body is too skinny to block. When Aryan-Shahrukh threatens him, it feels like a God bringing judgement down on a mortal. When Gaurav-Shahrukh threatens back in turn, it feels like a tiny force of chaos, lashing out without control or thought, willing to spend all his tiny power in an effort to cause pain. Really, it’s equally scary, just in a different way. Especially when he says “If you touch my mother or father with so much as a feather, I know where your mother-in-law lives….Your daughter is so cute.” He may not have much power, but he is willing to use it where it will do the most hurt.
I wish I was more fluent in Hindi, because I am guessing that the language Aryan-Shahrukh is using in this scene is a lot more Delhi-accented than usually, and also a lot worse than he would ever use as “big star Aryan Khanna”. But my closest guess as to his response, translated into language that would have the same impact in English, is something like “You touch my family, I will end your f—ing life in the same f—ing gutters from which you sprung.”
Gaurav-Shahrukh is gleeful to hear this! It is a proof of his power, that his small little might is still enough to cause Aryan-Shahrukh to lose his mind a little bit. He doesn’t care that it is a death threat, he doesn’t care that it comes from a real place of fear and pain, because of a threat to an adorable little girl, he just wants that reaction, any reaction.
Really, the audience does as well! We’ve had 2 hours of Gaurav being all heart and emotion, and Aryan being all logic and inflexible power and determination. Whether or not one of them is “right” or “wrong”, we find it easier to sympathize with Gaurav, because we know what he is feeling. But, finally, we are getting a glimpse of Aryan also feeling something, we are seeing that he is a real person after all with real emotions. We had glimpses before, when he tried to explain to the host at the wedding, when he broke into anger at the press conference, but mostly he has seemed untouchable. Anything Gaurav did to him felt acceptable, because we didn’t believe he could actually be hurt. But now, finally, Gaurav has found the pressure point that will evoke a real reaction.
Gaurav-Shahrukh keeps pushing on this point, saying that he wants Aryan-Shahrukh to apologize, that night, on stage, at the neighborhood Dussehra festival. And then it will be over and he will leave him alone. Hmm. I don’t think he will actually leave him alone. I think no matter what Aryan-Shahrukh does at this point, it is never going to fill the gaping maw of Gaurav-Shahrukh’s need.
But, I also don’t think that is what Aryan-Shahrukh is thinking. I don’t think he is thinking about how to get Gaurav-Shahrukh to stop, I think, at this point, he is thinking about how to destroy him and break him down until he becomes nothing. Which is why, when he goes back into the living room, he is looking at Gaurav-Shahrukh’s parents not as a nice old couple, but as a tool he can use.
Gaurav-Shahrukh’s father speaks up first, saying “Our son is a good boy! He was never like this before he met you. You changed him!” Aryan-Shahrukh gives him a look like “interesting. How can I use this new information to better destroy him?” Then Gaurav-Shahrukh’s mother speaks up, saying “No! It was our fault. We encouraged him to see the glamour of your stardom, not the work. Maybe if he had respected your work, he would have worked hard and made something of himself and would be married to the neighbor girl now. He has been wrong and needs to be punished. Send him to jail for 1, 2, 5, 10 years, but please don’t hurt him!” Aryan-Shahrukh looks at her with a little bit of sympathy, a little bit of “lady, you crazy!”, but mostly “hmm, how can I use this information to my advantage.” Which is why his only question is “neighbor girl? He has a girlfriend?” Aryan-Shahrukh, you are COLD!
Although, now I am kind of in love with this as an idea for like a TV serial or something. Shahrukh travels the world, punishing wrong-doers by stealing their girlfriends away from them. He wouldn’t even have to seduce them! Just show up, make the puppy eyes, say a few romantic flirty lines, and then leave, having spoiled them for all other men forever (another reason, by the way, that you really shouldn’t hire him for your wedding. What bride is going to be in love with her groom after that?).
(Except for Princess Anne. The one woman he couldn’t break!)
Dussehra fair time! Do neighborhoods really have such big deal fairs? I mean, my neighborhood has a fair number of fairs, but it’s more food stalls and maybe a stage with a live band, not like a roller coaster and a full size Ferris wheel. This one is not only full of stalls and rides, but also people. Aryan-Shahrukh is walking through it with Gaurav-Shahrukh’s parents in tow. One of my friends gave an audible “oh please!” at this point, because wouldn’t he be recognized? But he is WEARING A HOODIE!!! And we all know, a hoodie over your head is basically the equivalent of an invisibility cloak.
(who is this? I can’t even tell!)
Aryan-Shahrukh and Gaurav’s parents make their way backstage, his parents looking a bit sick, Aryan-Shahrukh looking opaque, and then the neighbor girl bursts in. Okay, I am sick of writing out “neighbor girl”, partly because half the time I spell it wrong (“i before e except….”), I’m using her character’s name! Neha! Neha bursts in, all smiles as usual. She is all excited to tell “Gaurav” and his parents that her Visa came through, she is going to America! But, she isn’t getting a reaction from Gaurav, he isn’t even turning to look at her! She touches his shoulder, and then as soon as Aryan-Shahrukh turns, she knows! Also, her lipstick is really good in the close-up shot right here.
Isn’t that interesting? Not the lipstick, that’s just nice to look at, but that she can immediately tell it is Aryan, not Gaurav. I don’t think it is supposed to be the same as not-Gauri knowing immediately, although it is similar to that. I think it is that Aryan is such a strong personality, he can’t easily hide who he is. Not like Guarav, who is weird and malleable and uncomfortable in his own skin. Aryan knows who he is and what he is, and he can’t hide it, and everyone else can recognize it immediately. Well, except for this next scene. I’ll get there in a second.
Aryan-Shahrukh asks Neha to help him, and she looks a little surprised and a little worried, but mostly willing. Hmm, Aryan-Shahrukh. On the one hand, you are asking her permission before doing this, but on the had, you are ARYAN KHANNA. No girl is going to say no to you about anything, and you know it!
Now, finally, showtime! We see Aryan-Shahrukh with his back to the audience, in darkness, staring into space. And then the announcer comes out and declares it is time for “Aryan Khanna!!!!” The crowd starts to boo, so I guess the media has come around to his side, but it hasn’t filtered down to the general public yet. Meanwhile, we see Gaurav slowly climbing to a perch on a nearby platform, so he can watch what is happening. I didn’t realize until my 4th or 5th watch, but at this point it is possible that Gaurav and the audience could believe that Aryan-Shahrukh is really going to apologize, that he is being introduced as himself and he is going to give a speech, as Aryan Khanna, to the crowd.
But, of course not! The announcer rushes out again in the face of all the booing and reminds everyone that this isn’t the “real” Aryan Khanna, it is “our” Aryan Khanna, Gaurav Chandna! Over on the platform, Gaurav-Shahrukh looks shocked and hurt. Meanwhile, backstage, Aryan-Shahrukh slowly changes his face, pushing out his lips, lowering his shoulders, changing the line of his hips, and then turns and greets the crowd with the slightly higher and lighter “Gaurav Chandna” voice.
Wow, that was good! First, that you think “oh my gosh, Aryan Khanna is such a great actor, able to pretend to be Gaurav Chandna”. But that just means that Shahrukh Khan is a really really good actor! Because he has actually convinced us that Gaurav Chandna and Aryan Khanna are different people, not just the same actor putting on different mannerisms. Second, that Aryan Khanna is able to turn himself into Gaurav Chandna, but only in this particular case. Only when the lights are on him and he is the star of the show (Gaurav, that is). One on one, in a dressing room, there is no way Aryan could ever convincingly hide his light under a bushel enough to pull off “Gaurav”. But when they are both performing, he can do it. Just like Gaurav could fool the fans who only saw “Aryan Khanna-Charming Confident Star”, so can Aryan fool the people who only see “Gaurav Chandna-Star of the Super Sitara Competition!”
Aryan-Shahrukh turns and starts talking in Gaurav’s voice, imitating his patter from previous years (I’m just going to go ahead and assume that Gaurav’s parents showed him footage), calling out the auntie in the audience who isn’t paying attention, and then saying that “every year, I do this show for Aryan. But today, I am going to do it for a very special friend…Neha!” Over in the distance, Gaurav-Shahrukh sees this, and scrambles forward, clutching at the barrier in front of him in agony.
Neha comes onstage, and there are a few boos, the audience is uncomfortable with a young woman being pulled into this. But, Neha turns to them and says “Be quiet! Let me deal with this.” And then asks Gaurav-Shahrukh what he wants to say to her. The Neha actress is playing this really well, by the way. To the film audience, she sounds practiced and stiff, like this is clearly a little routine she and Aryan-Shahrukh worked out in advance. But, she is still loose enough that it is believable the audience at the fair would buy it, think she is legitimately surprised. And certainly Gaurav-Shahrukh’s agony shows that he is buying into it.
Especially when Aryan-Shahrukh tells her “I want to say…I love you!” Gaurav-Shahrukh lets out a little whimper at this, like he hurts too much to scream. Neha turns to the audience and starts declaiming “No! You don’t love anyone! Just Aryan. All day, Aryan Aryan Aryan!” Aryan-Shahrukh starts talking, words flowing out of him, saying no, he doesn’t love Aryan anymore, in fact, he destroyed him! First in London, then in Dubrovnic, then he even went into his house and destroyed that! While Neha is a little stiff and practiced, Aryan-Shahrukh is just in the flow, words pouring out of him. He is still moving in a little self-conscious kind of way, but no more than Gaurav himself did at his first show. Meanwhile, the real Gaurav has tears streaming down his cheeks. Especially as the crowd starts to boo Aryan-as-Gaurav.
Finally, the finishing touch, Neha turns to Aryan-as-Gaurav, and says “No! I can never love you now! You’re not a hero! You are a Rakshasa! A Rakshasa!” Gaurav-Shahrukh is quietly sobbing now, wiping his nose, and face, and then slowly raising up his other hand to reveal the gun he took from Aryan-Shahrukh’s house. Aaaaaa! Nooooo! He aims the gun at the stage and pulls the trigger.
As the shot goes off, both Neha and Aryan-Shahrukh hit the floor. Aryan-Shahrukh immediately looks up, bracing himself, to find the source of the shot. He sees Gaurav-Shahrukh, and then ducks again as another shot rings out. The crowd is running now, including Gaurav-Shahrukh’s parents, who call up to him before he can take aim again. Meanwhile, on stage, Aryan-Shahrukh reaches over and helps Neha up, then pulls her backstage and quickly asks “are you all right?” She says yes, and he immediately starts to leave, but she grabs hold of his sleeve and says “please, don’t hurt him! He is a good boy.” Aryan-Shahrukh gives her another “lady, you crazy!” look, and leaves, running over to the platform where Gaurav is hiding just in time to grab him, but Gaurav-Shahrukh pulls free, and takes off running through the fair! Aryan chases him, fighting through the occasional bystander who calls out “hey! It’s Aryan Khanna!” (if only he had his magical hoodie with him!).
(Not this hoodie. A different one. Although now I really want this hoodie)
While they chase along, I want to talk about that sequence we just watched. This is what I meant by Aryan-Shahrukh being just brutal, once he decides to go all the way. He spends like an hour with Gaurav’s parents, and manages to figure out what is the most sacred, the most important part of his life. And then he figures out how to desecrate and destroy it in the coldest manner possible. Gaurav-Shahrukh took some obvious joy in what he was doing when he was destroying Aryan-Shahrukh, which, somehow, made it more human. That he wasn’t all about the revenge and anger, there was also a little bit of naughty glee mixed in. Aryan-Shahrukh is taking no joy here. He is just identifying the point that will give the most pain, immediately, and pressing on it until there is nothing left.
Notice his reaction when the shots ring out. Sure, he ducks, but he is looking immediately for the source. Not because he is some big hero, but because he really really wants Gaurav-Shahrukh. If he were a hero, he would have grabbed Neha, shielded her with his body. In fact, it feels kind of odd that he didn’t, that is what you always see in movies when bullets are flying! Some guy lying (laying?) on top of some woman. But Aryan-Shahrukh can’t be bothered. He can barely be bothered to check that she is all right after. All he is focused on is destroying his enemy. No, not his enemy, that gives it too much respect. Finding the mosquito that has bitten him, and squashing it into mush.
So, chase! Chasey-chase-chase. Run, jump, flip over booths and tables. Ooo! Highway! This is the bit from the trailer, where they are running between cars and trucks, and finally Aryan-Shahrukh grabs Gaurav-Shahrukh and pushes his head against a car window until it starts to crack, which is when Gaurav-Shahrukh kicks back, throwing Aryan-Shahrukh into traffic, so that a truck almost hits him. I only mention it, because it is an interesting callback to the film shoot with Sid Kapoor, when we saw Sid Kapoor shatter glass in a car with the help of movie magic. I’m not sure if it is supposed to show that Aryan-Shahrukh is a lot tougher and realer than Sid Kapoor, able to get this effect with brute strength, or if it is meant to be another Brechtian moment, reminding the audience of the artifice of film.
More chasey-chase-chase. Now they are inside the courtyard of an under construction apartment block, there are construction platforms everywhere. There are two moments in this part of the fight that I find really interesting. I don’t know if the fight coordinator came up with this, or if it was an idea from the director, but all along the two characters have had a distinctive way of approaching their physical conflicts. Gaurav-Shahrukh uses instinct and speed and madness. He will take off running as fast as he can in a moment, he will jump onto a roof, he will jump off a cliff, whatever it takes. But Aryan-Shahrukh will look at the whole area, will find a tool or an angle that will give him an advantage. Stealing a motorcycle in Dubrovnik, later finding a rope and using it to swing down faster than he could climb.
The same thing happens three times in this sequence. First, as Aryan-Shahrukh chases Gaurav-Shahrukh into the courtyard, he notices the switches for the floodlights, and holds back to flip them on, instead of blindly chasing after Gaurav-Shahrukh. Second, after Gaurav-Shahrukh has managed to throw him off one of the construction platforms, rather than chasing up after him again, Aryan-Shahrukh notices that there is a rope attached to the bamboo tower Gaurav-Shahrukh is climbing. He grabs the rope, throws it over a brace of another tower, then a third, and finally pulls on it, managing to topple Gaurav-Shahrukh’s whole tower, and making Gaurav-Shahrukh fall at his feet. And third, after Guarav-Shahrukh has managed to get away again (losing his gun though), Aryan-Shahrukh chases him up onto the roof. Gaurav-Shahrukh grabs big wooden block with the metal end of a crowbar nailed to the end, and swings it into Aryan-Shahrukh’s leg, and then shoulder (I wince and close my eyes every single time. It just looks like it must hurt so bad!). Before he can hit him again, Aryan-Shahrukh grabs a chair, and uses it’s legs to trap Gaurav-Shahrukh’s hand and flip the weapon away from him.
(picture this driving into your leg. Or, you know, not. Because that really hurts! Even to just think about!)
It’s a really clever character touch, both answering the “wait, how is a fight between a 25 year old and a 50 year old fair?” question, and telling you a little more about both characters. Gaurav-Shahrukh rushes in without looking, but is a little crazier and more unpredictable than anyone else, that’s why he can win. At least for a while. But ultimately, Aryan-Shahrukh moves a little slower because he is planning ahead, looking at the angles, seeing all the possibilities. And that’s why he is going to win.
Which he does here. Finally fighting Gaurav-Shahrukh to a standstill, they are both lying (laying?) bloody on the roof, facing each other. Aryan-Shahrukh throws away his gun, and gives one final speech. And for the first time, it feels like he is really feeling something, really letting someone else see his pain and fragility and wounds. Not just physical wounds either. He wants Gaurav-Shahrukh to see that he is just a man. That is his argument, that he is just a man. Just like Gaurav-Shahrukh.
He says that he came from these same streets, he had the same kinds of parents, the same schools, the same everything. Don’t be “Aryan Khanna”! Be yourself, be a good friend, a good son, appreciate what you have. One of the things they don’t say explicitly here, but it is so much part of the Shahrukh Khan star ethos, that it just carries over to Aryan Khanna without needing to be said, is that Aryan Khanna is clearly an orphan (he never mentions his parents, even when going back to his hometown of Delhi. The kids are sent to stay with his in-laws, not his family). When he mentions Gaurav-Shahrukh’s parents here, something about the way he says it suddenly makes you feel this deep longing. It adds a little flavor of jealousy to it, that he isn’t just trying to convince Gaurav-Shahrukh to appreciate what he has, he is feeling the pain of all those things he doesn’t have. Also, finally, Gaurav-Shahrukh gets his hug. Aryan-Shahrukh helps him up, leaning on him a little as well, and they are propped together for just a moment. And then Aryan-Shahrukh pulls back, gives him a final pat, and says “Stop being Junior Aryan Khanna. Try being Gaurav Chandna. There is no greater joy than living as yourself.” And then he starts to walk away, hobble really.
Meanwhile, Gaurav-Shahrukh is still sitting on the roof. He calls out “Hey Senior!” and Aryan-Shahrukh turns, slowly, knowing that nothing he said really got through if Gaurav is still calling him “senior”. Gaurav is almost smiling now. He gives a speech, and I honestly can’t remember for sure what all he says. I think he talks about how Aryan-Shahrukh took away Gaurav’s “fans”, even Neha. How he has nothing left now. He doesn’t even know how to be Gaurav Chandna! And then he says, “you just said a lot of things. But you never said ‘sorry'”. And slides backwards off the edge of the roof.
The last time he fell like that, in Dubrovnik, Aryan-Shahrukh looked down on him in triumph. But that was Europe, where everything is fake, and no one has feelings. Now, we are in Delhi, where everything is real and Aryan-Shahrukh has finally woken up. This time, he leaps forward, grabbing onto Gaurav-Shahrukh’s hand and holding tight. He gives another desperate plea, asking him to remember his parents! Don’t do this! Gaurav-Shahrukh just kind of smiles and says “Forget it. You wouldn’t understand.” And then falls. And the camera lingers on him as he falls, and when he lands, so we know for 100% sure that he is dead.
I’ve had this discussion with basically everyone I’ve seen the movie with; is there another possible ending for this character? A believable ending? This article interviewed a bunch of theater owners and distributors, and one suggested that maybe Gaurav could have married Neha and Aryan could have danced at his wedding, in a nice little full circle, the Star dancing for the Fan. My friend I saw it with most recently suggested maybe Gaurav could have turned into a broken wild wanderer, never to go home again. I was thinking, what if Gaurav really did go to jail? Like his mother wanted. And we saw Aryan visit him every day, finally taking responsibility and acknowledging their connection.
But really, none of those endings would work. And it’s not because of anything we saw in the second half of the film, any of the recent violence or madness, it’s because of what happened way back right before intermission. Gaurav-Shahrukh sold his store. He burned his possessions. He never had an exit strategy, did he? Even if Aryan-Shahrukh said “Sorry”, he was always going to kill himself. Whether he admitted it to himself or not, deep inside he made that decision a year ago, when he sat in the jail cell and stopped crying or sleeping or feeling anything at all.
Not that this absolves Aryan-Shahrukh of blame. If he had taken Gaurav-Shahrukh seriously, fully understood the depth of his love and pain, he could have prevented this. Heck, even keeping him in jail for a couple years instead of letting him out after 2 days would have been better! Or going public sooner, or setting up an intervention with his parents, or making a condition of meeting with him that he got psychiatric treatment. It may not have made a difference, but at least he would have tried. It’s not that he didn’t care, or he didn’t do anything, it’s that he didn’t really see him, didn’t take the time to understand and listen to him. That was his only sin.
Which is what I think the ending is showing. Aryan-Shahrukh is watching TV with not-Gauri a few days later, as the reporters talk about Gaurav-Shahrukh’s suicide, and how Aryan-Shahrukh is now fully cleared. Sunaina (yay! Sunaina!) walks in behind them, reminding Aryan that “It’s time”. And he goes out and stands on the platform to wave to the crowd again, for his birthday. Only, this time, he actually looks at the crowd. He doesn’t seem scared, but his face changes, acknowledging awe maybe? Or respect? He isn’t taking it as a given anymore that all of these people are waiting and cheering and going mad just for him. He isn’t looking off into the distance, he is actually looking down and seeing faces and people. And as he looks, he sees Gaurav-Shahrukh in the crowd, smiling. It’s a tricky ending but, I think, what it is showing is that Aryan-Shahrukh has really learned to see Gaurav-Shahrukh, and Gaurav-Shahrukh has therefore found peace.
Oh, and then we get a montage of all the selfie pictures Gaurav-Shahrukh took before his dreams were crushed. With his parents, at the hotel, with his little birthday cake. It’s really painful to watch, putting you back in the mindset one final time, before everything went wrong, back when he was happy and hopeful. But, I mean, the film is called Fan! It’s Gaurav’s story, not Aryan’s, we needed to end with him.