I don’t know whether it’s a sign of approaching senility or psychosis or both, but I’ve developed this habit of conjuring up improbable parallel scenarios while I’m watching a film (even one that I’m enjoying). Remember those campy scenes from old TV serials where a character’s drifting off into fantasy/dream would be accompanied by a spooky ululating sound and animated visuals of concentric circles? Well, I’m just like that in a movie theatre these days (minus the sound and the animated circles).
For instance, in the first half of Fanaa there was some very ordinary shayiri going on between the Aamir Khan and Kajol characters and it occurred to me that an excellent comedy could be made with the dialogue written entirely in Urdu verse. The poetry would have to be mediocre of course, but the characters would recite it with immense feeling and take themselves very seriously indeed. (After all, the film didn’t have to know that it was a comedy.) Lovers would speak in shayiri to each other all the time, even when saying prosaic things like “pass the cabbage please”. Evil terrorists would give their minions instructions over the radio in rhyme, and governments would use it to apprise each other of deteriorating political relations: things will get verse before they get better.
(Minor spoiler alert) In the second half of the film, when a wounded Aamir Khan escapes the Indian Army, crosses over the Kashmir border into Poland** and finds himself at the doorstep of the woman he deserted many years ago, I imagined a Death and the Maiden situation, where Kajol and her father (Rishi Kapoor) keep him tied up and torture him until he confesses to genocide. (I was also hoping for a dhishum dhishum fight at the end, with the portly Kapoor beating the crap out of Aamir and then sitting on him for good measure, thus proving the superiority of the early 1980s over the present day.)
Back to reality: I thought Fanaa was passable. The first half was quite dull but things tightened up after the intermission (though you have to be able to assimilate a major change in the film’s tone, along with the usual suspension of disbelief – and please, please don’t try to understand any of the characters’ motivations or get into conundrums of logic). There were a couple of idiotic scenes towards the end, but the second half also contained the film’s best vignettes (including the Antakshri one which Uma mentions here, and a few reminders that Aamir Khan, for all his posturing, is quite a good actor). It was more interesting, better acted and directed than the romantic slush early on.
Aamir and Kajol, as has been noted elsewhere, have no chemistry. I have a small theory about this: I think both of them are just too cerebral as actors. (Aamir has a well-honed reputation for perfectionism anyway, but this is just as true of Kajol – despite the pre-release publicity which hyped up the contrast between her and Aamir’s styles of working.) This doesn’t necessarily mean that they think harder about their roles than their contemporaries, but that the intelligence is always on display; like Sanjeev Kumar of yore, they have “I’m a Serious Actor and You Better Not Forget It” stamped on their foreheads. Put too much of that intensity together in one frame and it’s overkill. I think this is one reason why Kajol worked so well with Shah Rukh Khan, and why Aamir worked well with Juhi Chawla – those pairs complemented each other very nicely. (Watching Fanaa, I kept wishing Shah Rukh would bound in through the door and jump around on a piano for five minutes.)
Bottomline – I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend Fanaa to anyone (except my mother, who is the least discriminating movie-watcher alive), but it has its moments.
Lots of in-film advertising, including a Radio Mirchi promotion (Aamir wears a plastic mirchi around his neck). When Kajol went to open the fridge in one scene, I was kind of hoping Ajay Devgan would pop out and sing the Kelvinator song.
Killing off Jaspal Bhatti is a definite no-no and should be made illegal.
Child actors should not be forced into unreasonable and unnatural acts like saying good things about Rahul Dravid.
“Fan-aa” is not, as I belatedly learnt, a version of “Fun comes”. Nor is “panah” the refreshing summer mango drink. (As the ToI food reviewer would say, pun comes.)
**where much of the film was shot