A musical film about achieving your dreams against all odds is a tailor-made recipe for inspiration, entertainment, great music, and telling dramatic moments. Now, Fanney Khan, while entertaining to an extent, offers precious little in the way of catchy tunes or being inspirational, and instead chooses to focus so much on heavy drama that it ends up skirting melodramatic territory in several portions. When that’s the case, a movie needs its actors to bring out their A-game in order to keep the audience engaged. Fortunately for Fanney Khan, almost every one of its principle cast members is right on the money, with a headlining act from Anil Kapoor that’s worth savoring over and over again. He doesn’t just bring his A-game to the table, but an A+++ act that lifts the entire film in the bargain.
The story revolves around Prashant Sharma (Anil Kapoor), popularly known as Fanney Khan among his peers, and his daughter Lata (Pihu Sand). Prashant, who idolizes Mohammad Rafi and Shammi Kapoor (one of the greatest singer-actor duos of Hindi cinema), never ever amounted to much despite his musical talent, and now his only desire in life is to see his daughter achieve his unfulfilled dream. That’s why he even names her Lata, and the girl has the talent, charisma, and zeal to back it up, too. However, she’s too obsessed with remixes and the tacky tracks of the modern age rather than focusing on her inner, God-given talent, leading to a lot of friction with her dad. Also, constantly being body-shamed due to her excessive weight issues doesn’t do her confidence any good. How Prashant stops at nothing to ensure that his daughter doesn’t become just another Fanney Khan, and how the he and Lata together realize their dreams and smooth their relationship form the rest of the plot.
Fanney Khan did have the potential to juice its premise really well, and to be fair, there are some fine moments where the film subtly takes digs at the deteriorating music scene in the Bollywood, and how the youth today has no clue about the real musical legends of industry. Some of the moments that Lata shares with both her mother and father also leave you choked. And, a few comical scenes and funny one-liners, especially involving Prashant’s trusted friend Adhir (Rajkummar Rao) also crack you up.
Alas, these aspects are strewn too few and far between, with Director Atul Manjrekar and his writers, Hussain and Abbas Dalal, instead choosing to focus on unnecessary melodrama that mara the proceedings considerably. For instance, you never figure out why Lata is constantly annoyed with her father, and her rants get on your nerves after a time. Also, a fair amount of the emotional scenes appear forced as does Adhir’s romantic track with singing sensation Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), leading to a contrived and convenient climax that leaves you slightly teary-eyed, but mostly vapid.
As mentioned before, it’s left to the cast to keep things afloat, and boy do their pull a rabbit out of the hat. Rajkummar Rao, as Prashant’s sidekick, reminds you of some of Hindi cinema’s evergreen best friends, who’ve perennially remained in the shadows of the hero. His comic timing and scenes with Anil are a total hoot. Divya Dutta, as Lata’s mother, isn’t given plenty of weightage, but gives a wholesome display of her talent in one scene that require her to dig deep into her emotional reserves. Pihu Sand makes an assured debut and Girish Kulkarni is effortless. And, then there’s Anil Kapoor, who knocks it out of the park in one of the finest performances of his stories career, reminding one and all why he was one of Bollywood’s best leading men in the mid-80s to mid-90s and remains one of India’s greatest actors to date. The only one who sticks out with a subpar performance is Aishwarya Rai, but, in all honestly, she’s also saddled with the most hackneyed part.
Fanney Khan is no Secret Superstar if you’re looking for an apples-to-apples comparison, but is still makes for some decent entertainment, with some precious moments that stay with you, even if they are precious little of them. But if you really have to watch it, then watch it for Anil Kapoor, who’s excellence personified. And if you’re an Anil fan, then there’s no way you can miss this one.
Movified Rating: 3/5