Fanney Khan review: Anil Kapoor’s slice-of-life film ends as a fairytale
Director - Atul Manjrekar
Cast - Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Rating - 3/5
Fanney Khan is about collateral damage, the little people life chews up and spits out. They are the ones who lose their jobs when a corporate fat cat vamooses after dishonouring bank loans, they live in chawls and shanties dwarfed by the skyscrapers towering above them. But they have dreams and that’s what gets them out of bed and back into the rat race every day.
Anil Kapoor’s Fanney Khan is one such man. Nearing 50, he is the musical star -- of his chawl. Like the sequinned golden jacket he insists on wearing when he makes music, his dreams have frayed at the edges. A Shammi Kapoor fan -- the golden jacket is a nod to India’s Elvis Presley -- he works as a crane operator during the day. At night, he dreams with his eyes open. Once, those dreams were of becoming a star himself, now he wants it all for his daughter, Lata. Pihu Sand’s Lata is stifling under the name, her weight and her father’s expectations.
Lata is talented, but realistic. She knows that stardom is equal parts luck, packaging and talent. She practises the moves of a popstar and changes her name to something more like the names on the billboards. Which brings us to Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), who rules Mumbai’s skyline and the TV sets in everyone’s living rooms. Baby is defined by her star status. To Lata, she is the template and the proof that it works.
Baby is defined by her star status to all involved. Before we meet her, we hear of her and it is always in the context of the stardom she enjoys. Lata looks at it as a magical life, all presentation and packaging. For Anil, it is the talent, while his wife, a fantastic Divya Dutta, is afraid of the ‘compromises’ it takes to reach there.
The two worlds – of the chawls and the looming skyscrapers – collide when Baby, in a fit of anger, steps out of her fancy car and sits in Khan’s taxi. The father thinks on his feet and decides to kidnap her with the help of his trusted friend and sidekick, played by Rajkummar Rao. The next few scenes are the most rollicking of the film.
Fanney Khan’s achievement is its perfect casting – Anil Kapoor makes you empathise with his character. He is so charming that you are ready to forgive him for burdening his daughter with ambition, and even the film’s plot holes. Rajkummar’s comedic talent makes his two-dimensional part fun. Rajkummar has largely done intense parts and this is one of his rare, but thoroughly enjoyable, comic turns.
Aishwarya shines in the vulnerable moments of Baby Singh; it is her comfort with her kidnappers which is jarring. Perhaps drawing from her real-life experiences, she makes you believe that stardom is not all that it is cracked up to be. However, when it comes to joining in on the silliness of the kidnapping plot, she falters.
Divya Dutta is fantastic, as usual, in the role of Lata’s mother, a woman who wants the good life for her child but is becoming afraid of the road she has taken.
Watch the Fanney Khan trailer here
For a film that revolves around music, the Amit Trivedi score is not even close to memorable. There is a scene in the film in which Baby asks Rajkummar to sing any of her songs and he can’t remember any. We, as the audience, completely empathise. The only song you may perhaps hum is Tere Jaisa Tu Hai, which also works as a plot device. However, full marks to the team for taking on Achche Din and setting the song Mere Achche Din Kab Aayenge, right after Anil Kapoor loses his job when his factory’s owner runs away to London. And then, they spoil the effect by Mere Achche Din Aa Gaye at the film’s climax.
But then, climax itself is escapist Bollywood at its best. Everything ends well for everyone, strike one for melodrama. What begins as a slice-of-life film about following your dreams ends as a fairytale. It is charming but not rooted in reality. Life isn’t that forgiving; but perhaps the audiences will be.