Dear Shahrukh Khan,
After watching Fan, I’m rather skeptical of saying I’m your biggest fan. A doting, well-wishing fan, nevertheless! Quotidian, I know but true for whatever it’s worth. I fell in love with you in 1989. Circus. I was four then and didn’t know what love meant but I secretly relished getting an eye-full every time you appeared on my Onida set. Deewana, Darr, Baazigar followed. And my fondness only grew. So did my unabashed, unblinking gaze every time I caught the slightest view of you.
It wasn’t the dimples. It was never the dimples, it was the smile. The skewed smile. And the scruffy look with hair covering a better part of your forehead, the shirt perfectly tucked only half in. A tilt of the head, and a stretch of the arms in signature style was the final nail. In a good way of course!
I was so close to seeing you in my school in Dalhousie where you’d come to shoot for Dil Se. 1997 I think. (Our porch was redone into a radio station for the film. You even shot a portion of the title track in our graveyard). I turned up for school on March 15 that winter. You had wound up a day before. A DAY BEFORE. Like seriously? It was much later when I finally did see you, flesh and blood. 17 years! October 21, 2014. But this wasn’t the Shahrukh Khan I had immediately fallen in love with. This was the slightly older, wiser, experienced (and mighty charming at 48!) Shahrukh I had seen and come to respect over the years. I couldn’t look away even then. And this time I had an hour and a half to gaze. Unblinkingly, unabashedly.
You gave us some of the most iconic films and characters and reams have already been written about those – Sunil of Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa, Vicky Malhotra of Baazigar, Arjun of Pardes, Raj of DDLJ, Rahul of Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Mohan Bhargava of Swades, Kabir Khan of Chak De! India and several others.
But you kept this one in the closet far too long. Gaurav Chandna. The instantly likable and your most obsessive fan. From the diction to the expressions, body language to the mannerisms, Gaurav is nothing like the superstar hiding behind the prosthetics. Was that really you?
“There’s a personal me, there’s an actor me and there’s a star me,” you once said. Fan brings together all of that. First shot onward, where we’re taken through a montage of vintage Shahrukh Khan, Fan ceases to be a film. It’s a phenomenon. A celebration of a superstar! It’s not without reason you’re hailed King Khan. And Fan proves it. In more ways than one.
The first scene outside Mannat, where a wave of your hand gets the crowd roaring, screaming and hoping to be noticed is one of the most powerful, evocative shots in Fan. But more than wanting to take in that imagery, I wanted that boy in the crowd, getting shoved and pushed, to be able to reach out to you, after having made that far. His countenance is a farrago of emotions. It’s heartbreaking to see the visage of cheerfulness transform to one of despair. A scene before, when Gaurav performs to your songs at his local Sitara competition, with your original footage playing in the background gives a high, only a fan will understand.
And my! The scene where Gaurav finally sees his superstar for the first time, imitates his style and suddenly admits nervous ho raha hoon…! He had me rooting for him all through. Where was that Shahrukh Khan all this while?
As any other critical fan, I’ve been disappointed in some of your bad choices in the past – Chennai Express, Happy New Year, Dilwale. But Fan dusts off the bad memories. Then again, only you have the luxury to pick up any role and still be loved and hailed a superstar.
You’ve repeatedly said in your interviews over the years, “I am the best.” The statement may reek of arrogance to people outside your fandom but more than anything, it’s resonant of your belief in yourself. And it’s that belief, that attitude, besides your hard work and perseverance, that makes you what you are! A superstar!
– Your one in a gazillion fans!