Fanney Khan is in the same space as Tumhari Sulu and Secret Superstar where starry-eyed aspiration and gullible hearts of gold go but nowhere as grounded in reality. Directed by first-timer Atul Manjrekar, it almost deceives you into believing it is a touching fairy tale of a failed musician pulling out all stops to make his daughter's dreams come true. Except the onus of those dreams should not be on Lata (Pihu Sand) anyway.
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.
But despite the bumps, there are scenes in Fanney Khan that will move you. This film is liberally sprinkled with Chicken Soup for the Soul-style life lessons – we are urged to believe in the power of dreams, the value of inner beauty, the power of talent and rigor and the importance of staying true to yourself. Some of these land and some don’t. What stayed with me was the visual of Fanney Khan wiping away tears and pretending to be casual when Lata gets a call for an audition. It’s a heartfelt performance that goes a long way in making this bland film somewhat watchable.
Fanney Khan is a classic product of the “yes-man” culture in Bollywood. Nobody seems to have told the makers that the script is daft enough to ensure that Race 3 wasn’t the worst film of Anil Kapoor’s year. The lack of self-awareness is astounding. And it’s not even like they set out to make a ham-handed “massy” caper. This only proves how frightfully wrong the templates of Secret Superstar and Slumdog Millionaire can go, if executed by filmmakers with zero context and zero connect to today’s pop culture. Kapoor, unfortunately, is the only one convinced this is a legitimate movie – he acts sincerely, sings, dances and at one point seems to be shedding real tears.
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. 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.
‘Fanney Khan’ is a star studded musical that starts on a high note and has its moments of glory. It shows how parents live their dreams through children. It does strike a few wrong chords to culminate into an emotional yet convenient climax. However, the showstopper is clearly Anil Kapoor with a knockout performance that makes ‘Fanney Khan’ worth a watch.
Portions of Fanney Khan are a bit of a stretch: they are a touch flabby and far-fetched. But first-time director Atul Manjrekar not only keeps the dramatic core of the story intact, he also ramps it up appreciably to serve up an indigenized version that more than serves its purpose. What undermines Fanney Khan is its inability to tap to the fullest the universal emotions inherent in the father-daughter relationship. Fanney Khan pivots around the infectious energy that Anil Kapoor brings to bear upon the character of the failed musician Prashant Sharma. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Rajkummar Rao, actors coming from different ends of the Bollywood spectrum, make an odd pair. But in a film that glides in and out of the make-believe, it is no big deal if the love story, which anyways runs parallel to the main narrative track of the film, flirts with the unreal. Isn't that what cinematic plots hinging on the realization of impossible dreams are supposed to be? Fanney Khan is that - and more. Embrace it. It will do no harm.
What begins as a slice-of-life film about following your dreams ends as a fairytale. It is charming but not rooted in reality. For a film that revolves around music, the Amit Trivedi score is not even close to memorable. Fanney Khan’s achievement is its perfect casting – Anil Kapoor makes you empathise with his character. 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