If the actors who shine even in the most bizarre films on the back of the powerful acting chops aren’t able to deliver, you know something is amiss. In debutante director Atul Manjrekar’s Fanney Khan, two actors—Rajkummar Rao and Girish Kulkarni, who otherwise win hearts with their overpowering performances irrespective of the length of their roles or the overall arch of the movie—struggle to keep their characters engaging. If Rao seems visibly uncomfortable in the presence of co-actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who plays a famous singer Baby Singh, Kulkarni’s character of a manipulative manager has been reduced to a caricature.
And it is not just Rao and Kulkarni who fail to shine. In a film about a young girl’s dream to become a singer, music composer Amit Trivedi—often commended for his compositions—fails to maintain the tempo with only two original songs, both somewhat average, and most of the remixes of old songs falling flat.
Fanney Khan is adapted from a Belgian film, Everybody’s Famous, about a father going to any length to help his daughter realise her dreams of becoming a singer. If the original had a balanced mix of drama and sarcasm, Fanney Khan overdrives on melodrama. It tries to talk about issues like body-shaming, but, in an effort to cash in on the Indian audience’s soft corner for emotional stories, transforms it into an emotional drama that nosedives.
The film tells the story of Prashant Sharma (Anil Kapoor) aka Fanney Khan, a band master and a fan of Md Rafi, who dreams of becoming a singer, but gets caught up in the rut of life and ends up a blue-collar worker. The only way for him to live his dreams is through his daughter, whom he fondly names Lata (Pihu Sand). The good part is that she is blessed with a lovely voice. Scarcity of finances, and no association with the influential are issues they face. Her plain-jane look and overweight countenance are other obstacles that turn most of her stage performances in talent shows as exercises in humiliation.
Lata is a huge fan of famous singer Baby Singh (Rai), who has risen to glory not just because of her voice, but also because of the glamourous avatar on screen. However, the Dangal-esque aspirational father won’t let these aspects come in the way of his daughter becoming a singer. He will do anything to help his daughter live her dreams.
The film has a few emotional scenes between the family of three. Divya Dutta as the mother is sincere, and Kapoor, as the father, elevates the film on occasions. Sand is good in her part. The problem, however, is the loose writing and the direction that feels a little jarring at times.
The film begins on a right note when it raises concerns about body image, fat-shaming, and the pressures of getting into the showbiz. However, the film soon gets lost in clichés, illogical plot points and too many loopholes. It doesn’t end up as a story of aspiration and dreams that can have both victory and failure, but a stereotypical Bollywood film which will only have a happy ending.
Film: Fanney Khan
Director: Atul Manjrekar
Actors: Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Pihu Sand, Divya Dutta