Cast: Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Rajkummar Rao, Divya Dutta, Girish Kulkarni, Pihu Sand
Director: Atul Manjrekar
There’s just no polite way to say this – the combined talent and experience of Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Rajkummar Rao, and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who’s one of the producers here, has resulted in a mediocre film with muddled messaging. Yes, Fanney Khan, is a major misfire.
Without pausing to consider whether it’s healthy for a father to burden his child with his own unfulfilled dreams – think Dangal – the film asks us to celebrate its protagonist Prashant Sharma aka Fanney Khan (Anil Kapoor), a former orchestra singer-turned-factory worker who will go to any length to turn his teenage daughter into a music sensation. The young girl in question, Lata (Pihu Sand), is an overweight Plain Jane with a promising voice. A far cry from the glamorous pop star she idolizes, Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai).
The film briefly flirts with relevant questions about body shaming, the price one must pay for celebrity, and a superficial culture where appearance is everything. Lata is routinely humiliated for her weight, and those scenes are genuinely heartbreaking. But don’t be fooled; the film has no interest in exploring these themes. It just puts them out there, and moves along.
Fanney Khan is adapted from the Belgian film Everybody’s Famous, in which the father commits a major kidnapping in his desperation to see his daughter succeed. If you’ve watched the trailer of Fanney Khan you already know who will be kidnapped. Prashant recruits his mild-mannered friend Adhir (Rajkummar Rao) to help him with the job, so he can demand a ransom that’ll fund Lata’s album. Predictably things don’t go according to plan, but you’ll never guess how progressively implausible the film becomes. The ending, which involves a live reality show is especially idiotic.
One of the crucial problems with the film is that it focuses too much on Prashant, and not enough on his daughter. As a result you never really feel like you know her, or become fully invested in what she wants. Why, for one, is Lata always so rude to her loving father? First-time director Atul Manjrekar, who has also co-written the screenplay, fails to answer these questions.
There is also the matter of Baby Singh and Adhir, and Aishwarya and Rajkummar play out those scenes with real feeling. They have a chemistry that’s genuinely sparkling, and I’d have liked to spend more time with them, but that track ends too abruptly.
Instead the film gives too much screen time to a track involving a betrayal by Baby Singh’s cunning manager, played by Girish Kulkarni, the extraordinary Marathi actor who’s wasted here. He has an especially creepy scene with Lata that made me cringe.
For a film with music as one of its central themes, the songs in Fanney Khan are underwhelming, except for the rousing climatic ballad Tere jaisa tu hai. Pihu Sand lipsyncs to the number with such gusto, you’ll be easily fooled into thinking she’s actually singing it herself.
Fanney Khan squanders so much potential, it practically breaks your heart. Only Anil Kapoor succeeds in leaving his stamp all over the film, making your heart go out to this 'selfless' man on a mission.
But it’s the words of his wife, played by a lovely Divya Dutta, that stick with you in the end. “Kya star banna zaroori hai?” she asks, as if predicting the price they will have to pay to achieve his dream for Lata. That’s a question worth pondering. A question this film completely disregards.
I’m going with a generous two out of five.
Rating: 2 / 5
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