Fanaa

(Spoilers ahead)

Woo hoo! I did it! I have finally watched a Hindi movie on the weekend it released. Which, if you know me, is quite an achievement, and so I shall commemorate this historic event by doing a movie review. But before we proceed, an important reminder. If you are one of those people who go to a Hindi movie expecting unpredictability and surprises, then first, you really need to have your head examined. But secondly, please to not read this post any further. Spoilers galore and all that.

Fanaa. Such a beautiful word. To destroy yourself in someone’s love is such an incredibly powerful and intense emotion. Not only the literal dying, but the willingness to annihilate oneself and unite with the one you love (or with God, thus attaining salvation, to take the Sufi interpretation of the word) is a very sublime thought. And when a movie name refers to a thought like that, one hopes for it to reflect in the film itself. But does it? Naaah.

The story — Tour guide boy meets blind girl. Boy flirts. Sings song. Girl falls in love. Boy tells girl he is not cut out for love-shove. Girl tells him — too bad, deal with it. Girl recites poetry. Boy cannot resist girl reciting poetry. They sing another song. Top it off with sex. Girl leaves content with memories of time spent. But boy realizes he’s in love too so he stops her from going. Wants to marry girl. Finds eye-doctor to restore girl’s eyesight. But at key ‘I can see!’ moment, boy missing. Bomb blasts rock the city and boy dies in it. Boo hoo. Sniffle sniffle. Blasts are investigated. Seem like handiwork of dreaded terrorist of international repute who also sings songs. Who be he? Camera zooms in on boy. Freeze frame. Intermission. Heh, yes, we’re only half-done, imagine.

Okay, so I am being a bit unfair. The movie starts out as a love story. But somewhere along the way it changes its mind and decides to jump on the terrorism bandwagon, probably in a bid to be original. And in doing so, it sticks its fingers into too many pies and leaves a mess on your hands. Why does Aamir get Kajol from the train, if he anyway intended to ditch her three days later? Why the rush to get her eyesight restored? We are told, post-interval, that Aamir’s character desires Kashmir’s freedom. He is supposedly part of an international terrorist organization, yet all his missions hinge on him alone? The rest just sit in the background doing target practice? And what really drives Aamir? Does his ruthlessness come from a belief in his mission? Or just a fear of his grandfather? Is he really a man torn between the meaning of his life (his love) and the purpose of his life (his mission)? Or is he just confused, much like the movie is?

And about the whole fanaa business. Kajol didn’t fanaa-ofy, cos she survives. And Aamir didn’t really give up his life willingly either. He chose not to kill Kajol, yes, but it seemed like he was counting on her to not kill him too. (Tough break, dude.) So who went all heavy-duty fanaa-ing in whose ishq? Unless the change of Aamir from womanizer and ruthless terrorist to a scared man who just wants to protect his wife and child is the fanaa ho jaana they are trying to refer to. Which seems a stretch, if you ask me.

It is not that the movie doesn’t deliver at all. It keeps you entertained and has plenty of good moments. Kajol looks refreshing, is many pounds lighter than we last saw her, and has great screen presence. She deftly shifts from Zooni’s love for the man, to confusion about his intentions, to fear of him, all without saying too much. But then again, this is Kajol, so we wouldn’t have expected anything less. Aamir is reliable, but age is starting to show (and a bit of a paunch too). Also, Aamir just seems Aamir and not so much Rehan. Now SRK usually suffers from this problem, where the star overwhelmes the character he plays, but I hoped better of Aamir.

Of course, Aamir and Kajol have chemistry and one wishes they had been paired together sooner. (Horrors like Mister lova lova, notwithstanding.) The entire first half — the romance, the sher-o-shayari on the bus, the chaand sifaarish song sequence, their falling in love, the rain song dekho na .. they all breeze by, and one never notices the time.

Another thing I liked was how Kajol’s blindness was pretty incidental to her character. There wasn’t any of the ‘awww, she can never experience what we can, so let’s pity her instead’ mellow-drama. Instead she is shown to have a sense of humor about it. When meeting Aamir the first time, she mistakenly offers her hand in the wrong direction and he asks her brusquely — Are you blind? Pat comes the reply — Of course. Can’t you see that I am blind? Why, are you blind or what? Nicely done. Amongst other things to like is the kid. Very cute, both sulky and smiley versions, and the haldi-doodh scene is aww-inspiring. Fatty and Bobo are cute, but Vrajesh Hirjee and Satish Shah are wasted. And blink-and-you-miss-her Lara Dutta. Did she lose her way onto the set or something? And for the love of God, whoever kills Jaspal Bhatti in a movie?! Tchah! It is just not done, I say!

Ooh! Special mention needs to be made of Tabu for what is perhaps the most ludicrous bit of miscasting ever — playing the head of the Anti Terrorism Unit. And don’t miss the unintentionally hilarious scene where Kajol fears for her life and radios for help and Tabu picks up the call —

Kajol: My husband is a terrorist. He is going to kill me and my son. Help!
Tabu: Okay, be careful. We will come to your house some time tomorrow.

Hello? Some time tomorrow?! We’ll take a detour and do some sightseeing before we come over? Or maybe this is like my cable TV guys — We will be over at your place sometime tomorrow, between 8am and 5pm, ma’am. No, I am sorry, we cannot be more specific. Seriously, can I have some of whatever it is they were smoking when they wrote those lines?

The music of the movie is quite lovely (a pity that it is Jatin-Lalit’s last together) and the picturizations enhance the songs. Of notable mention are the two Sonu Nigam-Sunidhi Chauhan duets — mere haath mein and dekho naa. The former has lovely use of color against the pristine snow (of Poland) and the raindrops are nicely lit up in the latter. And of course how can we forget chaand sifaarish. We have always had a soft corner for Shaan, and he sure delivers in this. But is it just me or does anyone else see some similarity in melody to Asha’s do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani from The Great Gambler (1979)?

(Sidenote — When heroes are drenched in rain and thus presented in clingy shirts, one is always compelled to realize that even the bestest-looking Bollywood men look plain dorky when wet. The only man who has ever flouted this rule, making us sit up and notice, is Hrithik while singing ik pal ka jeene .. aye mere dil to gaaye jaa from Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000). Hubb-ba! Oh and speaking of Hrithik — going by the previews, if Popeye starred in The Matrix (1999), it would probably result in Krrish? Talk about muskull-wuskull!)

Kunal Kohli hit the jackpot with Hum Tum (2004). Heck, he even got himself the Filmfare Best Director award from right under his mentor’s nose. (Yash Chopra was in the running for Veer Zaara (2004).) And deservedly so. Hum Tum was a good movie. Admittedly not an original story, but nicely Indian-ized. One of my favorite moments in it was towards the end, when Saif and Rani end up having sex and the next morning he asks her to marry him because it is the ‘right thing to do’. Rani refuses. Marry me for love, not because you had sex with me, she says. Otherwise we’ll have made two mistakes instead of one. I remember I was ready to stand up and do a jig. Not too often that a Hindi film heroine is shown with such convictions.

Sadly, there was no such memorable moment in the three hours of Fanaa. But there was one line that Kajol’s mum says while giving her relationship fundas, that I quite liked. Loosely translates to something like this — Give your heart to someone who loves you .. but give your self-respect only to someone who’ll willingly be destroyed in your love. Worthy of a thought.

And now you know why we don’t write movie reviews. Yep. They last longer than the movies themselves.

47 thoughts on “Fanaa

  1. Raju Bathija

    Very well written review and well balanced. I had also seen Fanaa last Saturday and found the second half really boring. Here in India too much hype was generated around the movie and it was not worth it.

    I am first to comment :), honestly I read the post before commenting.

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  3. iyer education

    i saw DVC last week instead of Fanaa and i slept through 4/5th of the movie bcoz i was completely blacked out but i knew who the chor was in the entire cast and crew becoz i had read the book…

    i am sure something on those lines would be in store if at all i decide to watch FANAA and i wud know the next move in the movie… u know why? 1 melody chocolate for guessing… bcoz i read this review :P

    FAN-AA-TASTIC review i’d say…

    chal abhi bahut pakaya :P

  4. Paddy

    Thank you for an accurate and what I call as very much relatable review. Some folks are glad out here that they arent alone in characterizing the movie as thus :)

  5. Raj

    Nice review! I wrote a review too :D And I emntioned all the things that bugged me.

    U know, like getting pregnant after having sex just once and Terrorists stealing missile parts from different countries and assembling it into 1 missile.

    But did u say the music is lovely? Except for Chand Sifarish, no other song can be called great. And “Des Rangeela” sux. But yeah, the picturization of songs is nice.

    The girl playing Bobo is hot and must be offered main leads in movies.

    And Tabu did look really dumb as the ATU head.

  6. Sagnik Nandy

    very well written and very film critic-ish – though i will have to say that you were more nicer towards the movie compared to most ppl that i know. also, am i th eonly one who didnt find the kid cute???

  7. Say.no.whee.whee

    We wants u doin reviews on phunnier phillums where u get to say lines like maa ki aauunnk, we very greedy on dose of humarr, idhar humaar quotient less, we want vintage Megha, we want vintage megha

  8. Sushil

    Hello,

    Good review…my thoughts exactly (definitely better words!)

    Another point I want to make – Why could Kajol’s character not identify Mr. Khan by his voice when she meets him post son-shun and all. People who are sight impaired tend to have heightened listenability no?

    Sushil

  9. Bombay Addict

    Lovely post !

    The only bigger crime than killing Jaspalji (ooh ! very nice point!) was having Shiny Ahuja in a 35second role. How the hell did he accept this ? What was he thinking ? As Sayesha briliantly put it on her post “I wonder what made him accept the script that listed his part as follows: ‘Play football. Answer call. Drink tea. Die.” Touche.

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  11. Brat

    Ah…and the curse of the Vishsesh Tippani is broken…I spare you from my Vishsesh Tippanis.
    I never knew there was sooooo much in the movie. I intermittently dozed(un-Kajol scenes) and drooled (otherwise) in the theatre with my ears firmly shut. This post was an ear opener. Thanks, I feel like I have the complete picture now…literally.

  12. dumbs

    the only good thingin the movie was the cinematography.

    in one sequence aamir, carrying a gun, is being chased by 2 people in snowmobile carrying machine guns and a helicopter. he succeeds to shoot thme down. crap crap!

  13. Shri

    After watchin Fanaa’s trailer I had decided not to watch this movie…it never looked appealing to me…Now after reading this..I m definately not going…unlessssssss some PYT comes up to me pleads with me to accompany her….ten I may just oblige

    Nice review…Do not worry abt d length of d posts…we r used to long hindi movies so not much of a prob for us :)

    Cheers!!

  14. Hariprasad Poojary

    Hey,
    We demand our dollars back. No, No..not from the Chopras but from you. After refreshing the page every now and then for a post on Asha Concert, what we get. A review of a film..Common, its not fair. :-)

    neways, nicely written review. The industrywaalahs need to open their eyes and offer more roles to Kajol..
    and beg to differ abt the music..no great shakes on plain listening..Dont know howz it in the movie..

    Cheers,
    HP

  15. Andy E.

    Move over, Khalid Mohammad, Megha Ebert is here. Considering your immense wit and your fondness for movies, this was only a matter of time.

    As for the movie itself, I watched it this weekend too and it was a rare first for me to watch a movie in the month it was released. I was watching it as part of a Hindi movie marathon that also included Being Cyrus, which was by far the best of the lot, and Chinatown, which actually lowered my expectations from all Hindi movies just in time for Fanaa. I probably would have disliked Fanaa much more had I seen it right after BC. As it stands, I didn’t think it was great, but I didn’t think it was too bad either. True, the plot had enough holes to function as a decent sieve and it was also the only movie I’ve seen that manages to make both Aamir Khan and Tabu look like bad actors. It’s like some random Yash-Chopra-protege-type chose to make Dil Se (which I thought was a very good movie) without Mani Ratnam’s skill. And what’s with Rishi Kapoor playing a Kashmiri. The guy is cool and everything, but he’d play even a Mallu character with a Punju accent. But I was able to sit through it thanks to a beautiful background score, great camerawork, and the hope of seeing some part of Kashmir, which of course I didn’t. I liked the fact that they didn’ t spend any time justifying AK’s character with an ailing mother or a murdered father, though that ‘naanajaan’ bit wasn’t needed. Also, how scary can a terrorist organization be that gets taken out by shooting exactly two people.

    And my last gripe – how about making a non-romantic movie for once and focusing on the issue you want to base your movie on rather than use it as a backdrop for another assembly-line love story? It seems when we want to make a movie about the freedom struggle, we set a love story in it (1942), when we want to make a movie on terrorism, we set a love story in it (Fanaa), when we wanted to make a bio-pic about a powerful king, we set a love story in it (Ashoka). But what else can you expect from a bunch of movie-makers who take Dead Poets’ Society and turn it into Mohabbatein or take Anand and turn it into Kal Ho Na Ho.

  16. Andy E.

    By the way, your post should probably have a spoiler warning, not that you could ruin it any more for a prospective viewer than the director already has.

  17. Nirav

    Hi, Does look like you are being very generous with the movie. In my opinion, it doesnt deserve such a balanced review… and to Sagnik’s point, he is definitely not the only one who did not find the kid to be cute :) And yes… the Tabu “we will come tomorrow’ sequence is not the only indigestible sequence in the movie… there are many more!

  18. qs.gemini

    I liked the first part, yes I am a sucker for cheesy stuff, but the second part, particularly the last 15 minutes were so bad, I thought of writing to Kunal Kohli telling him to stick to Hollywood ripoffs that don’t require too much imagination, or thinking. He is good with copying stuff, and he should stick to his core competence! Please DO NOT THINK…it is injurious to your audiences’ intelligence and wallets!

    Now if this was a Govinda movie, I would have been okay, because I would ensure “willing suspension of disbelief” before I walked in, but Mr. AK is supposed to be Mr. Cool.

    My “favorite” part of this “comedy”: Tabu telling Kajol:
    “Now I will tell you the most important thing of your life (Something like that).”
    When she said that, I thought she will spew some gyaan about what to do with the nuclear trigger – but alas, I was so stupid. Woh nukillar (if Dubya said it) trigger tha ya the first ever Nokia cellphone?

    she came back with: “Your husband is a terrorist” – Duh, she knows that and this is why she contacted you!

    This could definitely NOT be a date movie – I would at least walk out of the theater wondering what deep dark secret the dude next to me is hiding – and God forbid if he has a BIG cellphone!

  19. ShivA

    I was going to write my own review for the movie, but I guess you have spoken my mind…the interesting thing that I found abt the movie was usually its the guy who leaves and sacrifices everything to woo the girl he loves…but it was refreshing to see it the other way round…it was Zooni’s movie where Rehan was just lucky to have someone like her love him…even when she shot him down, it was her who lost her love of her life…and apart from being the masala stand off between Zooni and Rehan in the end, it was the best shot of the movie..it had a magic that the whole movie “Black” had….Hats off to Ravi…have always loved his work….and Aamir should stop doing “normal” movies…he is like Kamalhassan in tamil…we just cant see him do run of the mill stuff…as for your review, like always, enjoyed reading it…

  20. Dev

    How about the “Book Tour” plot point similarities of “Hum-Tum”(May 2004) with “Before Sunset”(Feb 2004). They were released too close for either one to be a rip off of the other, but its spooky. Hmm…. “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”…I want another sequel.

  21. Srihari

    Very well done. I’m not the movies-type, so I admit I would never have seriously considered watching Fanaa in the first place, but your witty review was definitely way more entertaining than a movie with a plot like this could hope to be.

    From what little I do know about Hindi movies, I believe Tabu is a very talented actress, and think it is a royal blunder in casting if Tabu is given a cameo role as head of an Anti-Terrorist Unit.

    Talking of movies, if I really hated someone in the world, I found something last night that would be an excellent gift item for him/her. A DVD of this movie called “A Talking Picture”, by a Portugese director so loony that he was arrested and leashed in an electrified cage after the movie was released, lest he make another movie like “A Talking Picture”. And oddly enough, the movie stars John Malkovich in a role so listless that had I been in Malkovich’s place, I would have committed suicide during the shooting of the movie.The movie transcends mundane terms like genres, languages and civilizations, and will tell you a story so ridiculously insipid, you’ll want to rip your heart out in a dirty mix of anger and laughter. I want to spread the word about the movie, do please watch it, if you haven’t (only 93 mins of torture, you see), and more importantly, after you have successfully negotiated the length of the movie, do your bit to criticise the movie.

    I would be very very interested to read a review of that movie on meghalomania!

  22. karan

    thatz a very kind review…seriously! i think its best summed up in smthing i overheard while walking out after the movie: “10$ fanaa ho gaye, yaar!” :D
    “hum kall subah aayenge” killed me too! but that still doesn’t win the most ridiculous-plot-moment….that one’s reserved for kajol seeing rishi kapoor’s body floating under the frozen lake! :O

  23. nightwatchmen

    I would only say that you are far too kind to Fanaa,I watched it and the only source of entertainment I had was from the colleague who was inadvertently assigned seats next to me and was squirming in his seats since his intention was more to whisper nothings into his finacees ears rather than watch the movie!!

  24. gvenum

    Chaaan Sifaarish – But is it just me or does anyone else see some similarity in melody to Asha’s do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani from The Great Gambler (1979)?

    Very true! After “listening” to both the songs, they sound very similar and I am shocked with the blatant copy by Jatin & Lalit. I didn’t expect them to be so cheap considering its their last movie together and having given some very good numbers in the past. They tried to offtrack the audience with their background music but the tune is a ripoff. Such a disgrace. Nice catch Megz, othwise they would have got all the adulation they don’t deserve.

  25. raj da 2nd

    Ha Ha gud 1…well movi sux big time, no doubt, but sure has some gud music. Agreed, Tabu was dumb, guess she hasnt come out of her “Crossover Cinema” mood :D. As, for one new trend Iv observed, in the end, Kajol kills Aamir sayin “I love you”, the other day I was watchin X-men: The last stand @ AMC, dont know if ur fond of the Men Movies :P. but in the end the hero kills the heroine sayin I love u! ..yeh kya baat hui?! (oops! did I just spill the climax..never mind…isnt worth 2 hrs anywayz…:P)..now wt I am comin down to is, whz this I luv u and kill funda?? iv decided to stay away from my gurl for a few dayz….for my own safefy of falling in luv..eh? :)

  26. qs.gemini

    [Dev] Interesting that you bring up the reference to Before Sunset and Before Sunrise and Hum Tum. That’s exactly what I thought … I thought the whole part about getting off the flight and spending a day together in Amsterdam was a total ripoff – and then When Harry Met Sally began?

    I would love another sequel to Before series, but am almost worried that I might not be able to live through some of the realities it would bring forth – but yea, would love to see how they resolved the dilemma – then it could be like Oliver’s Story the sequel that never should have been written!

    [Megha] Where art thou? Blogosphere is getting rather dry without your updates… and feeling neglected with no one responding to comments et al – guess we have resorted to replying to each other’s comments! :p

  27. Cee Kay

    Hi Megha. You got it exactly how I felt about the movie… Saw it yesterday…. Think exactly what you think about it. To top it off, we took our 7 year old daughter thinking it was “just a love story” (well, I know we should have tried to read some reviews before) and throughout the movie she kept saying (out loud) “told you I wasn’t going to like it. It is too violent!”. For the record she didn’t want to go but we took her along because we thought the experience (of watching a hindi movie) would be good for her. Heh!

  28. Crimemaster Gogo

    Since I was not blessed enough to see FanHah, I take ( ‘steal’ might be a better word) this opportunity to announce that Vishesh Tippani faces serious competition from Razzak Khan aka Nadi Didi Changezi aka Ninja Chacha. Those arching eyebrows have serious crimemasterlet appeal. Thus do I lay down the gauntlet.

  29. Dev

    [qs.gemini] Well as a rule I am suspicious by default of sequels of any kind, but here’s why I’m not apprehensive about another “Before..” movie. The essense of those movies, to me, have always been the conversations…the smooth transitions from awkwardness to familiar banter. So for all I care, Jessy and Celine could be stuck in traffic the whole time, as long as the essense of the first 2 movies are still in place :)

  30. loverBoy

    Beautifully written (as always)!

    And now you know why we don’t write movie reviews. Yep. They last longer than the movies themselves.

    Indeed! That could probably be the biggest review written for a Hindi movie! But I enjoyed its thoroughness.

    Oh and speaking of Hrithik — going by the previews, if Popeye starred in The Matrix (1999), it would probably result in Krrish (2006)?

    LOL :-D

  31. Aakarsh

    Dont know why, but this film somehow never interested me till now…probably becoz of those candifloss moments shown in promos.
    also, the film appears to be a take on Dil Se..albiet in a reverse order.anyways, thank for the review. I neednt change my opinion abt the film now.

  32. angelo

    ive asked around but no one could tell me if the movie is better than k3g [khabi khusi kabhi gham], could you shoot me some pointers on that?

  33. Jacob

    Wow, very well written. I fell asleep right at the start (images of people singing and dancing in the rain does that to me!), looks like I didn’t miss much :-)

  34. sAbby

    LOL.. ok buddz yer review was jOkez:p had sum gud tyme reading it.. well i wonda y we go watch m0vie n spend our money while we can sit on our computers and enjoy reading de review:p hmmm.. point to b noticed..
    newayz dis guy up dea wrote he was more interested into de couple sitting nex to him rada den de movie dat was sum gud crap:p i totally burst out laufin:d:D:D gud 1.. buh wen i was inde theatre to watch dis movie wit friends i had sum really immature ppl sittin behind meh whu keeps on sayin “OooOoOooOoOoo” ON ALL dose scenece.. [i.e wen amir n kajol had sex:p] lyke c’mon i knw yu guyz r whore n yu do it n iz no surprise fo yu.. buh deaz families out dea whu do not wish to knw yer personal emotions or needs.. newayz!!
    I think de movie was pretty gud… it was surely confusin buh sumtin different betah den all dose lovey dovy crapy stories.. well 2 b honest wen amir gets on de train n stops de gurl from leavin de town i was lyke dat is SO NOT LYKE BOYZ:p lyke c’mon y wud a guy have sex wit a chik n den stop her frm leavin if he has soo much luv and self-respect in himself he wudnt do such crap at de first place:p dat was totally crap buh wen he left her n b tear her pIc apart daz wen i was lyke NOW DAZ MUCH MORE LYKE BOYZ:P lol.. newayz de first half of de movie was totally Pimpin n rokin.. de shair-o-shairi n de SONGZ r jus beautiful espec.. Mere hath main and Chand Sifarish de one inde rain is ight as well.. buh de rest half was gay n boring buh i kynda enjoyed it cuz of de lill kid.. he was sucha sweetheart especially his dialouges..
    ” Jitna rehan aapse pyaar kerta hai, utna aap rehan se pyaar nai kertay..” OMG evi1 in de theatre went aawwwwwwwwwwwwww wen dey heard dat n personally daz mah fav line throught de movie.. buh ye once again a Funny rEview.. gud fo laufz:p

  35. Emma

    Agree with you – about Fanaa. I found the movie quite insipid actually.

    Agree a lot more with your statement on Hum Tum. When I saw the movie it was this scene and the statement that Rani makes that remained with me – felt as though Indian movies had really come of age. Imagine no rona-dhona on having lost your “izzat” and all that!

  36. Shaheen

    Hey, Just came across ur blog randomly & this was the 1st article which I went through. Thats an awesome review u penned… Guess, I need not go through the SUNDAY TIMES again for a sad polished write-up… Will be going thru ur other articles now…

  37. Wil

    I agree with you completely. Too many coincedences too predictable but as always exceptional acting by Aamir and Kajol. Ajay should stay home and let his wife out as he could not learn anything from her.

  38. Roopesh p r

    It’s really nice for me and i had seen the film more than five times.I’m astonished by the scenes. it’s the most and ever best thing that remains unforgettable in my life.After seeing the film i’m writting every where the word ‘FANNA’ .I cannot express my feelings and it has become a part of my life.I think i’m in FANNA now

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