Bollywood goes meta with Shah Rukh Khan's dark and fascinating Fan

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      Starring Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Amin. In Hindi, with English subtitles. Rated PG. Now playing.

      It is not uncommon for a dedicated Bollywood fan to express loyalty to their favourite star by insulting his or her rivals. In turn, the stars often tacitly wield their fan base against others in the industry. Desis take their films very seriously.

      It is this complex and often toxic celebrity culture that is the focus of Maneesh Sharma’s Fan. The result is an insightful rumination on the codependency between idols and their devotees, disguised as a psychological thriller.

      Shah Rukh Khan plays a barely concealed version of himself as the aging megastar, Aryan Khanna, whose long career has resulted in a legion of devoted fans. With the help of some facial prosthetics he also plays the obsessed Gaurav, whose young life has been an extended tribute act to the star. Thus, Khan is performing a twice-removed mimicry of himself.

      Gaurav wins a local talent competition by doing a montage of famous film scenes from Khan’s actual films. He takes his trophy and makes a “pilgrimage” to the star’s mansion in Mumbai.  Gaurav believes his life of worship entitles him to a meeting.

      The story takes a twisted turn here as the delusional star-hunter pulls increasingly public stunts to get Aryan’s attention. What Gaurav is yet to learn is that his love is absolutely unrequited. While Aryan often proclaims his reliance on public adoration, it's a ruse; a necessary illusion of intimacy.

      The film successfully explores the vulnerabilities and needs that animate both ends of this noxious and inherently unequal relationship. Through this film, the much hailed “King of Bollywood”, Shah Rukh Khan, chooses to smash the foundations of the celebrity culture of which he is the acknowledged monarch.  This is a commendable choice for him to make and it is fascinating to watch.