Monday, May 24, 2010

Fanaa, or, The One In Which I FINALLY Give Aamir His Due

I think a very good case could be made for me lacking what others would consider the proper attitude toward Aamir Khan. I'm sure the Bollywood Fan would agree with this assessment. After all, I committed the cardinal sin of not appreciating him in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, and then in Dil Chahta Hai my favorite performance was actually that of Akshaye Khanna! Horrors! When others have raved about his adorableness, I haven't been able to see it, mostly because I entered Hindi films when he looked like this:

Note to Newbies: He is neither the fish nor the small boy.

Not this:

So, what would it take for my hardened heart to fully appreciate the actor who took himself the most seriously of his generation? Why, a masala film, of course! And not just any masala film, but one of the pulpiest of the new millenium.

That's right, I'm talking about Fanaa (Annihilated by Love), the 2006 film starring Aamir, Kajol, Rishi Kapoor, and Kirron Kher. And it. Is. AWESOME. (Also, available on Netflix Instant Viewing. I'm not paid by them or anything [although I totally should be; I'm such a sucker] but I feel obligated to make these things know for the other U.S.-based Bollyjunkies out there.)

Here's the setup: Zooni (Kajol) is a blind Kashmiri girl sent to New Delhi with a group of other girls to do a song-and-dance number for Independence Day celebrations. (Lovely Lilette Dubey plays their chaperone, and it's always nice to see her in a non-Jazz role.) While there, they meet a tour guide named Rehan (Aamir) who flirts hard-core with Zooni and sings praises to God in her honor. The two quote couplets at each other--see the Bollywood Fan's post on it to more fully appreciate their exchanges--but given his haircut it's a good thing Zooni can't see him. It isn't till he sees her performing (the appropriately colorful number "Des Rangila," or "Colorful Country"), though, that Rehan falls for Zooni. He takes her on a sensory tour of the city, and she falls in love with him, too. However, Rehan's hiding a terrible secret that drives the two of them apart, leading Zooni to believe Rehan is dead. When they reunite by chance seven years later, after Zooni's eyesight has been restored by MAGICAL MASALA MEDICINE, that same secret could destroy Zooni, her family (including her dad--Rishi!), and Rehan too.

Kajol is totally awesome as Zooni, by the way. She's equally capable of playing a naive, sheltered blind girl in the big city for the first time and a mature (seeing) mother in circumstances beyond her control. Plus, she looks gorgeous.


In my opinion, though, it's Aamir as Rehan who ends up stealing the show. From his playful flirting in the first act--and the "Dekho Na" scene, which is kinda superhot for a Hindi film, see for yourself--

to his broken, desperate flailing post-intermission, looking for a way into the world he wants and out of the life he was born to, he makes Rehan utterly sympathetic and even believable, which is asking a lot given the script.

Because yes, like I said, it is total masala. Improbable medical cures, hidden identities, superfluous characters, songs, and all. Basically, it's up to Aamir and Kajol to sell the story, and they do, both separately and together--especially together. Rishi Kapoor and Kirron Kher are really cute as Zooni's parents, too.

Here's an observation that might be spoilery (skip to the next paragraph if you haven't seen it! Do it now!): I've seen some compare Fanaa with Dil Se, but really I found Dil Se to be not romantic in the slightest, which is pretty much the opposite of my impression of Fanaa. The only similarity I see is this: both Meghna and Rehan are already the walking dead in their own minds. Rehan just fights it harder, or doesn't know it as well.

The soundtrack is full-on beautiful, from the previously-mentioned "Dekho Na" ("Just Look") to "Mere Haath Mein" (which I can't seem to find a direct translation for? Does it mean "Holding My Hand?") to the tongue-twisting "Chanda Chamke" ("The Moon Glittered").

The production values are high, with the exception of a certain green-screen cliff dive and a certain helicopter explosion. The little kid is supposed to be seven. He looks four and talks like he's three. (Note: typically developing seven-year-olds do not refer to themselves in the third person like little Kashmiri Elmos.) Also, here is the famous hand double for the egg cracking:

Phew! Good thing they got somebody to cover for her. I wonder if that's the sort of thing you can put on your resume: "Fanaa: Stunt Double for Kajol, Egg Cracking." I can't imagine having to crack egg after egg, take after take--oh wait. Yes I can. I DO IT EVERY DAY. FOR BREAKFAST. For Pete's sake.

(I asked my husband if Kajol's lack of culinary skills reduced his crushing on her. His response: "I cook for you almost every night anyway. At least she can hire someone." Darn it.)

Anyway, in case it isn't obvious, I totally recommend Fanaa. It's worth every penny, especially for Aamir.


  1. Oh. Yes. Fanaa is just the best thing ever. Well, actually I say that about every movie I like. I found myself crying and saying "Kyun?!? Kyun?!?" to an empty room at the end of the movie. But totally in a good way.

    See, this is what I LOVE about Aamir. He can be so serious, but at heart he is still an Indian actor, with roots deep down in masala. (ever watched Dil? So much good old Bollywood melodrama. AND young Aamir is super-cute. AND it's on hulu)

    Personally, I think he embraces it. He wants to make good movies, but he wants them to still be Bollywood movies. And they are. Although they are relatively serious, all of his movies have moments that are strictly Bollywood.

  2. Oh, Mere Haath Mein (tere haath ho) is "In my hand (is your hand)" or "Your hand in mine" if you prefer, I think. (this is not guaranteed because this is my super-beginner Hindi from just picking up words here and there)

  3. I may be the only person in the universe, who hated Fanaa with a passion :( And guess who I hated most in it? (hint : not Kajol). It took TZP, RDB and Earth to erase my memory of Aamir in this.

  4. Sarah: I'm still not an Aamir fangirl, but I really, really liked him in this movie (and in DCH, for what that counts). I admire him as a professional, and I love reading his blog, but I think he attained stardom at a time when not many movies were being made that appeal to my tastes! Plus, an inordinate amount of his movies have unhappy endings so I'm not overly motivated to seek them out. I haven't seen Dil, but knowing it's on Hulu takes away any excuse. :-) And thanks for the translation! I *thought* that's what it was but there was no translation for the opening line that sounded anything like that so I wondered if I was just imagining it.

    Anishok: Nah, there's plenty who feel the way you do. But I loved Aamir's performance, especially in the second half. So torn! So broken! So completely frozen while they curled up together on the snow in "Mere Haath Mein!"

  5. It's been very interesting to see what people really think of Aamir. I, for one, have always been a fan of his acting (looks aside because I didn't really think he looked that bad in TZP despite the above picture which kind of reminds me a little of a short haired troll doll). *takes breath*

    I really liked Fanaa. A lot. I thought Kajol was absolutely breathtaking through out. The music was steller (I love Chand Safarish), and the story was completely compelling.

    I think Fanaa is one of those films that met with a lot of controvery for it's subject matter, also, but I think whether you love it or hate it, there's no denying it's impact.

  6. I looooove this movie!! And I used to like Aamir Khan quite a bit - Lagaan, Rang De Basanti, DCH, Ghajini... but his disturbing performance in the saccharin 3 Idiots and while talking ABOUT 3I have really turned me off.

  7. I saw this one on the big screen with a friend whose reaction made a LOT bigger impact on me than the film itself did. She kept murmuring, "O he is HOT" while I struggled in vain to see his hotness! She was in tears at the end and very, very upset with how it turned out, while I found myself completely unmoved with all the drama (and I am usually quick to sniffle and sob through such things!). That is not to say that I hated it. I liked some of the romance parts (especially the re-union part) but on the whole, I felt that the film tried to be several things in one go and didnt quite get there - it wasnt fun enough for 'masala', it wasnt realistic enough for 'serious', and (its worst crime, in my book) it didnt give romance a fair chance. I much prefer ye olde Aamir of the goofy smile and OTT theatrics (in top form in Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin).

  8. Shell--when I looked it up on Wikipedia I saw that it had actually been banned and protested and all that good stuff. I think, given its purely entertaining presentation, that it was all a bit of an over-reaction. And, about Aamir, I forgot to mention that in Rangeela I found him totally adorable without being attractive in the slightest. LOL But like you I definitely respect his career.

    Filmi Girl: I've been slow to put both feet on the Aamir train, but this film put me squarely onboard. :-D

    bollyviewer: Hm. She was even calling him "hot" in the first half?! I have to say I am really surprised. To... each... her own, I guess? Personally I liked how the end panned out; to me it seemed that it was the only choice left to either of them.

  9. YAY!! One of my favourite Bollywood movies! I loved it. I thought Kajol TOTALLY earned her 'Best Actress'. Yes, at some parts it's a bit odd (blind girl singing and dancing? Rehan just leaving the jacket with the part out in the open?), but as you said, the actors and actresses pull it off. I agree with everything you said here... especially the part about Dil Se (which I hated... but let's not get into that! :P)

  10. Fanaa is an enjoyable time pass - songs are really good esp chand sifarish and mere haath mein. I liked Tabu's role and acting (though short) apart from Kajol and Aamir.

  11. I don't dig Aamir either, even though I saw him in his younger days :)

    I remember coming back from 'Fanaa' with a bunch of friends, and then dancing through the night on the soundtrack.

    I was really blown by Kajol in the film though, especially as the blind girl.

    The next morning though, I had a lot of issues with the script. :)

  12. rhilex: Those WTF things are what make it true masala, no? ;-) I laughed about the trigger thing when I saw it on the bedpost. She really did earn the award, though.

    Filmbuff: I <3 Tabu, but I thought her role in this was pretty thankless and could have been pulled off by Katrina Kaif--in other words, by anyone. (One funny thing, though: there's that part where she's gamely trying to make "Damn him! Damn him!" sound slightly realistic, and the subtitles read: "Darn him! Darn him!" LOL)

    Banno: The soundtrack rocks, and Kajol does too. But yeah, the script...! Good thing it has such charismatic leads and good cinematography, or else it'd be completely laughable.

  13. Its been difficult to read your blog since the time you changed to these colors.

  14. Anonymous: I would think the spurious observations on films to which I have no cultural connection would make it more so, and that's not even taking the inappropriate attempts at humor into account. Perhaps you'd prefer Kanye West instead.

  15. ah, I was crazy about this movie when it came out. And due to some protests, it couldn't get released in my state. How I held myself untill release of dvd, is only I know.

    I love first part of the movie. The playboy Aamir. with all Shayaris and teasing. But as always, extreme action puts me off. In second half. But some here there cute moments [the oldies playing in background, Kajol and Aamir singing at 2 am !!] Love those moments. If the second half is not little stretched, this would be one of the most favorite of Aamir.

  16. Oh yes, Soundtrack truly rocks. Can't believe this was Jatin-Lalit's work. Sonu and Sunidhi's duets are wonderful. Dekho Naa is my fav rain song.

  17. I've liked Aamir from Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke as a kid and Fanaa just built on that. I haven't watched it in a while so I can't remember all of it but I'm glad you like him now, because I really find him a truly incredible actor. Of course when one loves Kajol and Aamir, Fanaa was the one for me, it was like magic being weaved around me, a lot of it by the stunning soundtrack, I now have Mere Haath Mein buzzing round my head now!

    Now, having watched Dil Se, the comparison to it is an interesting one. I agree that Meghna has resigned to her fate whereas Rehan is split, wanting to change what is inevitable. I did feel there was an 'Annhilated by Love' feel to Dil Se, not something you could label as romance, however Fanaa had both this romance and this passion.

    This is as always a great, funny review and I love your interactions with your husband, I still remember his screensaver :)

  18. Oh wow, I thought I'd commented on this last week! Ouch. Sorry for the delay here, Ajnabi. And thank you much for the links! I hope you didn't think you'd fooled me into thinking you didn't get Aamir all this while :P Hehe...

    I really enjoyed Aamir and Kajol in Fanaa, of course. But of all of Aamir's films of the 2000s, Fanaa is likely my least favorite. That bit with Rishi Kapoor toward the end...aaargh!

    As Shell says above, it's always interesting to know what people think about Aamir. And the more we learn, the more we can appreciate that for the vast, vast majority of his career, he's had to stay popular and win over audiences without much help at all from the mainstream media. In fact, it's been more despite them, which is quite an achievement. His films must be nice. :)

    Few more notes: 1) Agree with Filmi Girl on being turned off somewhat by the 3 Idiots marketing campaign (loved the film, though); 2) Agree completely with you on the comparison between Dil Se and Fanaa; 3) I'd join Bollyviewer in recommending Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, and would be curious to know your thoughts on it; and 4) At a Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan concert last year, the response to 'Mere Haath Mein' was a little out of hand, it was the only song everyone in the audience (and I mean everyone, to the point where the singers would point the microphones to the audience!) sang along to, which I thought was interesting.


  19. Darshit: Poor you, not being able to watch the film till DVD! I share your pain. :-) I don't blame you for being crazy for the film. I can't wait to buy it! Okay, this is embarrassing, but I didn't even know who Jatin-Lalit was till just now. *blush* And then I found they did the soundtrack to some of my favorite movies! (I liked this quote: "composing music is very tedious today." Dude, we all feel that way about our jobs sometimes.)

    MsBlogger: Fanaa would have been a better title for Dil Se than the actual title, wouldn't it have? Although like you said, NOT ROMANTIC. Thanks for the compliment--my husband is really long-suffering with my Bollycraze, na? ;-)

    tBF: I was certain you'd remember how I loved him in Rangeela, even if I did forget to mention it. :-D That bit with Rishi that you mentioned, near the end, made me laugh SO HARD. But I mean, really, when it comes to masala you *have* to have moments like that or it just isn't what you paid for, right? I get what you're saying about "despite the media," and I agree; he really doesn't have many people writing sycophantic columns with overly personal questions about him, which is a nice change from the usual.

    I'll see if I can find Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin; it sounds really good! That concert sounds fabulous. I would have loved to have seen/heard that moment!

  20. This is a hilarious post...however, I thought you appreciated Aamir way before that :D

  21. I have that moment from the concert on video, but haven't gotten to editing out my besura (pronounced bay-sue-raa, read: out-of-tune, more like hopeless, LOL) voice out! :D Some day...

  22. I seriously have no idea how I stumbled into this page but, I love your pictures. Bollywood stars are always so beautiful! Ugh! Makes me want to run to the gym. ha ha

  23. Nicki: I did, really, I was just kinda joking. ;-)

    tBF: Well, if you manage to edit it to your satisfaction, I hope you post it--I think it's funny. :-D

    Annah: I KNOW, right? Must... work... out...

  24. Would agree with me that the titles could be swapped and it'd all just work out better? Dil Se was really about this cold passion that 'Fanaa' promises while in Fanaa, a lot of the emotional value comes from the taunting that their hearts endure and the desperate actions they take because of it, if that makes sense....

    Ah well, he has his interests in Bollywood too so aal iz well I guess ;)

  25. I love what Aamir had to say about Fanaa himself on his old blog, which doesn't exist anymore but (hope you don't mind the link here) I excerpted on my blog:

    Love that he makes these masala films too! And I always love him with Juhi, wish they'd do another.

  26. This is a very nice movie and the songs are awesome. Even am very good fan of Amir Khan.


Spam, trolling, and messages in non-Roman characters will be deleted. Otherwise, have at it!