I’ve just finished watching Fanney Khan, and am still in shock. Not in a good way, though. That a film starring a bunch of our top star-actors can be so off the mark is a sobering, dismal thought: this Anil Kapoor-Aishwarya Rai-Rajkummar Rao concoction, based on a Belgian film Everybody’s Famous, is unbelievably awful.
Anil Kapoor plays Prashant Sharma aka Fanney Khan, a blue-collar worker who dreams of stardom for his daughter Lata, an overweight plain-faced teenager blessed with a lovely voice. She is a huge fan of famous singer Baby Singh (Rai) and wants her (Baby’s) charmed life, and her proud papa will let nothing get in the way, not logic, not believability.
The film starts by toplining some real, serious concerns: how body image has become such a huge part of celebrity culture, how fat-shaming can be the worst thing for a young person just starting out exploring self-hood, and how much pressure there is around the whole circus of being famous. But none of these crucial issues are explored; after a cursory mention, the film gets lost in tired clichés.
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The young actor who plays Lata (Sand) is reassuringly real, and nails the vibe of being an annoying teenager constantly at war with her parents. She is the one of the two bearable parts of the film. The other is Anil Kapoor, as the washed-up die-hard Rafi-and-Lata fan, who will do anything, even the most questionable, criminal things, to ensure that his daughter shines under the spotlight. Kapoor comes on eyes glistening, voice throbbing with emotion, and is, as always, an actor you lean towards because of the integrity in his performance.
Which is not something you can accuse this film of, on the whole. And that’s the trouble. Everything else—the ludicrous plot-points which include a kidnapping and a ransom and a live talent show—is difficult to buy. The kidnappee never appears fearful or scared enough perhaps because the kidnappers behave like some kindergarten bad guys, cosying up to each other and playing ‘ghar-ghar’.
The gorgeous Rai essentially plays herself, with maybe one or two true-to-the-character moments. And Rao, who gets to share a lot of screen time with her, is never completely at ease around her, breaking out more with Kapoor, his co-worker, and partner-in-crime. The outmoded melodramatic treatment drowns even the most competent, including Girish Kulkarni as a sleazy talent manager who preys on unsuspecting young women, and Divya Dutta as Lata’s mother and Fanney’s faithful wife.
And the music, for a film about song and singers, is entirely forgettable. Only one song is sort-of-rousing, but it’s already fading as you leave the theatre.