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Fanney Khan is a struggling singer who wants to make his daughter a big name in music world.
Is it healthy for a father to burden his offspring with the pressure of realizing his unfulfilled dreams? Prashant Sharma works tirelessly in a factory and is the occasional lead singer of a local neighborhood band. He would like you to believe that it’s OK. He is an adoring father and husband whose energy comes from his love for music. Prashant worships Mohammed Rafi and Shammi Kapoor and his alter ego, Fanney Khan, is a rock star in his chawl. That’s as far as his dream of becoming a professional singer went.
But it’s hard to side with Sharma as he discards all common sense and caution in order to make his teenage daughter Lata an overnight star. Based on the Belgian film Everybody’s Famous!, the Hindi version has been adapted by screenwriters Hussain Dalal and Atul Manjrekar (also the director). Woven into the story are messages about prejudice, body shaming and misconceptions about celebrity life.
Also Read — Anil Kapoor on why Fanney Khan is an emotional film, and the travails of a struggling artiste
Lata has to tolerate taunts and insults for her plus size which prevents people from recognising her true talent. Her mother Kavita (Divya Dutta) is the supportive realist while Prashant is the dreamer. Somewhere between them is the testy Lata, who is unappreciative of her father’s encouragement and intentions yet has her own delusions of grandeur. We don’t really get a sense of whether she truly has what it takes till the climax though, which makes it even harder to root for Lata. You do, however, root for Pihu Sand who makes a remarkable debut. She is natural, confident, and lip-syncs better than many industry veterans.
Like everyone in the country, Lata too is a huge fan of pop star Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Somewhere between losing his factory worker job and composing tunes for an album he envisions for Lata, Fanney ends up kidnapping Baby. His only accomplice is the sweet simpleton Abhir (Rajkummar Rao). Rao cranks up the innocent charm and nails comic timing, but his two-dimensional character remains a smiling sidekick at best. Baby’s story is half-baked, but Rai Bachchan serves the right image for the part, believable as the star stifled by her celebrity.
Also Read — Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on Fanney Khan: There’s an immense sweetness and lightheartedness to the film
Baby is a little too chilled as a hostage. If the idea was to suggest that she actually felt freer in bondage, then that needed to be fleshed out better. But then this is the overall issue with Atul Manjrekar’s Fanney Khan — it gingerly skirts the surface of every hot button.
I was more interested in the evolving dynamics between Adhir and Baby, but the script only flirted with it before brushing aside that track. Adhir is in charge of guarding Baby, which results in a next-level Stockholm syndrome. It also throws up the most entertaining moments. Watching the Baby-Adhir track developing would have been preferable to scenes enduring the caricatured ‘bad guys’ who turn a crisis into an opportunity. Girish Kulkarni is a peculiar casting choice. As Baby’s manager, Kakkad, he is unable to rock the spiked hair, and with the additional accessory of light contact lenses, he’s just creepy.
The climax unfolds during a reality show. Fairy tales are well and good, but the melodrama combined with the stupidity of the protagonist makes some scenes unbearable. Besides feeling sorry about body shaming, the final message seemed to be that it’s all right to break the law and orchestrate a huge deception in order to give your child a shortcut to fame. Whatever happened to hard work, dedication, perseverance and self-belief?
Inexplicably, Kapoor’s Fanney has Hyderabadi intonations (which come and go) so it’s hard to place him, while Lata sounds more Delhi Punjabi than Mumbai. Of the songs (music by Amit Trivedi), the one earworm is ‘Tere Jaisa Tu Hai’ which stays with you till the end, along with Anil Kapoor’s tear-soaked face. He turns in a crackerjack performance as the father who believes dreams cannot die.
A weak script with some directing inconsistencies, Fanney Khan had room to be an enjoyable comedy or satire. Instead it careened towards over-the-top melodrama with debatable messaging.