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‘Fanney Khan’ film review: Anil Kapoor shines in a fairy tale about music and achievement

Atul Manjrekar’s official remake of ‘Everybody’s Famous!’ stars Anil Kapoor as a father determined to make a success out of his daughter.

Atul Manjrekar’s directorial debut Fanney Khan doesn’t wander very far from its source, the Belgian comedy Everybody’s Famous! (2000). A factory worker whose dreams of being a musician and singer were thwarted somewhere along the journey called life has invested great hope in his daughter. She is a talented singer, but is also overweight, surly and decidedly non-glamourous. The worker dreams up of a harebrained scheme of kidnapping a pop star and blackmailing her manager into giving his daughter her break. The pop star welcomes the abduction as an adventure far more interesting than the drudgery of show business. Meanwhile, her manager decides to milk her absence to boost the ratings of a music talent show on television.

The satirical and glib tone of the Belgian movie, which makes its contrivances believable, has been replaced with a fair share of melodrama in the official remake. An extended joke about fame at all costs has been given the veneer of a fairy tale in which anything is possible. In the Hindi production, Amit Trivedi’s score increases the musical possibilities, although only two songs from the score stick, one about the elusive “achche din” and the other centring on the daughter’s moment of triumph.

Yet, Fanney Khan has its affecting moments, nearly all of them stemming from Anil Kapoor’s touching performance as the concerned father and the romance between the characters played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Rajkummar Rao.

Prashant (Kapoor), better known by the moniker Fanney Khan, is so sure that his newborn will be a singing talent that he names her after Lata Mangeshkar. Lata (Pihu Sand) isn’t having it easy in her attempts to convince the world that she is capable of living up to the expectations. “It’s all about the packaging,” her friend confidently tells her, and going by the reigning star of the charts, the red-haired and ultra-glam Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), she is probably right.

But Prashant is undeterred. Despite his daughter’s tantrums, he forges ahead in his project to launch her career, and gets the opportunity of a lifetime when Baby hails his taxi. Together with his friend Adhir (Rajkummar Rao), Prashant kidnaps Baby and dials her manager Kakkad (Girish Kulkarni) to strike a deal.

Rajkummar Rao and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Fanney Khan. Courtesy T-Series.
Rajkummar Rao and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Fanney Khan. Courtesy T-Series.

Girish Kulkarni is barely convincing as the duplicitous manager, but the other recruits snugly fit their roles. Anil Kapoor’s relentlessly optimistic man of many parts (musician, factory worker, taxi driver, best dad in the world) is the latest piece of evidence of the actor’s ability to play an ordinary man battling extraordinary circumstances. Kapoor generously shares the screen with his co-stars, giving Divya Dutta (who plays his wife) room to inhabit her role and the first-time actor Pihu Sand to display sparkiness.

Sand’s Lata is a bit too perfectly formed to be convincing as a struggler taking her first steps – she has all the moves down pat in one of the songs – but she comes into her own in the rousing track Tere Jaisa Tu Hai. The evolving relationship between Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Rajkummar Rao is a giggly delight, allowing the veteran of heavy-lidded romances to relax for the first time in years and giving Rao ample scope to show off his comedic skills. Casting is the real winner in Fanney Khan. The actors help the movie navigate the implausibility at the heart of the plot and its facile critique of a music industry in which talent is worthy of being recognised only if it is televised.

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Fanney Khan (2018).
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.