Fanney Khan Review: Cinema that is as terrible as it is dated
It runs like a film from a bygone era - a sad background music here, an irredeemable negative character there, and a click-of-a-button manipulative scene
Atul Manjrekar's Fanney Khan has one interesting visual. That of a kidnapper bringing eggs and other assorted groceries, and chopping vegetables to prepare a meal for his victim. That whole sequence makes up less than two minutes of Fanney Khan and it doesn't even happen in the foreground. In the foreground are Fanney Khan aka Prashant Sharma (Anil Kapoor), a blue-collar worker who finds himself driving a taxi after his factory closes, and Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) - one of the most ridiculous names for a prima donna, on screen or off - whom Prashant has kidnapped, an act for which he emotionally blackmailed his friend Adhir (Rajkummar Rao) into submission. Adhir becomes Baby Singh's caretaker and Rao plays him with the very typical goofy, naivete-mixed charm that we've come to associate with him. They have kidnapped Baby Singh to....not sure. We don't know. Prashant, at first, thinks of demanding money. At some point, it turns into demanding a recording chance for his daughter Lata, who dreams of making it as a singer-performer, in the mould of Baby Singh. Prashant doesn't have an idea. He doesn't know what he is doing while Baby and Adhir begin to tragically flirt. Manjrekar has an even lesser understanding of what is happening.
Director: Atul Manjrekar
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao
Everywhere she performs Lata gets mocked for her weight and that masks her talent. All of this is filmed by Manjrekar in the most perfunctory, judgmental ways imaginable. Fanney Khan runs like a film from a bygone era, a sad background music here, an irredeemable negative character there, a click-of-a-button manipulative scene following it all. But Anil Kapoor still looks like the Anil Kapoor from that era and that gives way to an inquisitive dissonance. Only last year, we had Advait Chandan's Secret Superstar that took a similar premise of a talent, found and nurtured. But that film was more - a mother and daughter trying for a release from an abusive relationship, a husband, and a father. Above all, that film had empathy and heart. Here, we have a slimy, rat-like producer (Asif Basra) with a swine for a subordinate in Girish Kulkarni. For this film to even marginally work, Lata needed to be assertive but likable. She comes across as a petulant child instead. The film doesn't offer any excuses for her to treat her father the way she does. The protagonist of Secret Superstar had every reason to escape the clutches of her patriarchal household while here, Prashant does everything to help Lata. After a point, we cannot root for Lata. And right from the beginning, we don't know the point of Fanney Khan.
Now one might ask where Baby Singh is in all this is. Yes, good question. I watched the film and I am still figuring it out. What is Baby Singh and why is Baby Singh? She is held up in a rundown factory for most of the film's runtime, having an extended meet-cute with Adhir. The plot and the subplot, both, seem inconsequential. There is even a dog named Ustad. Baby Singh has no part to play in Fanney Khan or Lata's fortunes. Is it some convoluted metaphor to establish that you cannot keep talent caged and it will always find a way to get out and shine under the limelight? You may laugh now. The film needed more of Rajkummar Rao and Aishwarya Rai's chemistry, which is nipped in the bud and fun while it lasts. All of ten to fifteen minutes. Yes, the film is named Fanney Khan and not Baby Singh (Thank god for that!) or Lata. But there is nothing intriguing about Fanney Khan. We don't even know why he refuses to disclose to his family that he doesn't have a job anymore. Nothing on screen in 2018 so far has been as embarrassing as the reality show denouement of Fanney Khan. There is even a news scroll that claims Madonna responded to the events of the film. Did anyone bother to check her pulse?