The meaning of Fanney Khan, as explained in the first scene of the film, is a person who is talented, musically-inclined, and fun.
The Fanney Khan in this movie is played by Anil Kapoor’s Prashant— the star of his locality but a normal workman in a factory at other times. He couldn’t make a musical career, but vows to make his child a musical superstar. And the training starts pretty much as soon as the kid is born, as he shrieks at how the baby is crying in sur (melodiously/ in tune) and names her Lata.
Lata (Pihu Sand) grows up perform at college shows, but is constantly made fun of as she’s overweight. The constant jibes are a case of meaning well, but going overboard with a thought. Skinny girls are not mean by default (in one scene two girls literally move away from the fat girl sitting on the same seat, and the show anchor calls her names), and fat people are not always ridiculed. So while these scenes want to make a point, it has you roll your eyes, rather than sympathize. It’s like the saas-bahu, melodramatic version of real life, and that’s a poor fit in this otherwise sunshine film.
Prashant’s determined goal for his daughter’s stardom makes him completely oblivious to the body-shaming taunts that break the spirit of the young, overweight girl. If anything, it makes him even more determined to see her as a star. Desperate to make his dream come true, he seizes opportunity when he sees one. He has a chance meeting with reigning musical queen Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai), and on the spur, makes a clumsy bid to kidnap her. The idea is to get some ransom and independently release an album for his daughter.
It’s double catastrophe post that. A pyrrhic victory, but a victory it is!
Fanney Khan got this writer thinking about films about parents with solid ambitions for their children. While Anil Kapoor’s character has an omnipresent nervous energy about him, and his style is putting passive-aggressive pressure on the kid, at least they’re on the same page as far as ambition goes.
In Dangal however, it’s a different story. It is the father (Aamir Khan) who wants wrestling as a profession for his girls, and they are completely reluctant at first. They choose wrestling under duress, as otherwise it could mean an early marriage for them, like their less fortunate friends.
In Sultan, Anushka Sharma’s character is a wrestler, and together with her father who’s also her coach, dreams of bringing the Olympic gold medal to India. The scene where she tells her father about her pregnancy and her decision to choose the pregnancy over her professional dreams is telling— his face is crest-fallen and he considers it his dream broken, not just hers.
In 3 Idiots, Farhan’s (Madhavan) character is pressurized to study engineering. When he comes clean about his passion to pursue photography, he is tersely reminded that an AC has been installed in his room, just so he can study in peace. It takes a darker turn, as the stern principal of the engineering college realizes his son had buckled under his pressure and expectations, and had taken his own life.
Ranveer Singh in Dil Dhadakne Do has a poor little rich boy burden going on, with his father pre-deciding that he ought to be a successful business magnate, when all he wants to do is pilot an airplane.
In Taare Zameen Par, the parents expect their all-rounder so to win…every time. And pressurize their younger son who is dyslexic to behave “normal”.
But there is good pressure also! Nil Battey Sannata has a single mother (Swara Bhaskar) working as a maid, nursing a dream of seeing her daughter become a successful professional. Whatever happens, she doesn’t want her daughter to become a maid like her, and pushes her to study harder. While the daughter is nonchalant about the mother’s efforts for the most part, to see her successful is clearly the mother’s dream more than the child’s.
Fanney Khan reminds one of the recent stunner of a film - Secret Superstar. Fanney’s ‘Tere Jaisa Tu Hai…’ is very likely to become a rousing anthem like Superstar’s ‘Main Nachdi Phira…’. Both songs about a young lady on the threshold of ambition, and the path to making her dreams come true.
Speaking of dreams, that’s what Fanney Khan talks about…a lot! ‘If you don’t dream, how will they get fulfilled,’ is the film’s illogical and endearing rose-tinted philosophy. Despite flaws, it’s a giant sunshine of a movie. Do bask.
Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2