FAN. It’s astounding just how much this three letter word can encapsulate within itself. It’s a word that becomes an identity for those millions of people who draw happiness, strength and inspiration from their respective idols. This affiliation is subsumed in love to the extent that the success of the idol so assumed becomes a reason for revelry, as if the achievement is a personal one. On the other hand, any failure or criticism aimed at the star gives way to melancholy and well, a staunchly defensive stance. It is probably the most sublime form of relationships, in the sense that it is comprised of both awe and terror at the same time. The star who makes your eyes glitter, who fills you with unbounded admiration and who enables you to dream is also the one ignorant of your very existence. The terror instilled is the terror of obscurity. While a shared love for a common object of affection creates a community of people from different strands of life, it also lends a degree of invisibility within a homogeneous mass. However, this sense of obscurity also has positive connotations. The people we tend to idolize contribute to the development of our being, whether constructively or destructively. The fact that they remain oblivious to the vital extremes of ecstasy and sorrow they evoke, imparts a unique sense of beauty and charm to the association.
The trope of initiation into the self and the very fulfilment of it could be one mode of analysis for the Shah Rukh Khan starrer FAN. To accomplish this, Lacan’s formulation of three stages of development of the consciousness – the imaginary stage, the mirror stage and the symbolic stage, become handy. The imaginary stage, according to Lacan, is the stage where there is no independent sense of the self. The infant, to fulfil its basic needs, relies wholly on the mother and cannot differentiate between the body of the mother and its own. In other words, this self derives its identity from those around it in a closed exchange. Gaurav, during the first phase of FAN, seems to be engulfed in the imaginary stage. His identity is not defined by who he is in essence but in a relational sense, through Aryan Khanna. “Sabse bade superstar ka sabse bada Fan”, is what he is seen mouthing with immense pride.The constructed semblance between Gaurav and Aryan is brilliantly manifested in the local contest Gaurav participates in. From the eyes of the spectator, Aryan Khanna performing on screen and Gaurav imitating Aryan on stage appear to be one entity. The body language, voice modulation, dance movements and even costumes are seamlessly coordinated to produce this desired effect. In fact, Gaurav’s ability to slip into Aryan at will is what holds the entire narrative together till the very end. In what is arguably the most remarkable scene of the film, Aryan himself is left flabbergasted by Gaurav’s emulation of him. Gaurav’s elocution of Aryan’s speech in the confrontation scene not only drives the hollowness of his own words in Aryan’s heart but also highlights the fluidity of identities.
The confrontation scene between the two, that takes place within the premises of jail, is where the film reaches its crescendo. It is also the moment that pushes Gaurav into the mirror stage. The mirror stage, as the name suggests, is the infant’s first contact with its own unified self as reflected in the mirror. It makes possible for the infant to conceive of itself as a separate autonomous unity. However, this image by default is laterally inverted and blurs the boundaries between the object and the subject. The child’s relation to itself, to some extent, is still in the realm of the imaginary as what it sees reflected back in the surface is something familiar yet alien. Though, the child starts evolving with the construction of the ‘self’, what emerges at this stage is a narcissist whole, as it sees itself through itself. The apparent betrayal at the hands of his idol makes Gaurav say and reiterate, “Gaurav hai toh Aryan hai. Gaurav nahi toh Aryan kuch bhi nahi”. Aryan’s culpability in getting Gaurav behind the bars is of little consequence, as compared to his dismissal of Gaurav’s passion, rather frenzy for him. By telling him, “Tum nahi ho mere fan” Aryan compels Gaurav to detach himself from his borrowed self, or in Lacan’s terminology to look into the mirror. This leads to a great deal of anxiety in someone who doesn’t recognise himself as a full subject. Consequently, what is fostered is a form of self centralism, which allows Gaurav to reduce Aryan’s hard work and perseverance to the devotion of a single man. Coincidently, what looms behind large in this scene is a mirror, which is not only a passive witness but also an object Gaurav turns eventually turns to as a potential audience. The obsession is turned from the star to the self and this becomes the driving force of the narrative that follows.
The third and the final stage, as defined by Lacan, is the symbolic stage. An entry into the symbolic stage is ensured by institutions, filial and social, which thrust the child towards complete selfhood. With the presence of the father, for instance, it finally dawns upon the child that oneness with the mother is no longer possible. What is eventually produced is a split subject, a subject that is and the subject that it aspires to be. This desire, however, is forever deferred and is substituted by a chain of compensatory ones. The ultimate desire of Gaurav in FAN, after his holistic sense of self has been demolished, is to obtain an apology from Aryan so that he can go back to his nascent state, where there exists a peaceful harmony between the two. The transcendent desire, as can be deduced from the above thesis, is never met. The film instead provides us with a series of chase sequences in the second half, which can easily be replaced by one another, very much like our ever mutating desires. The symbolic, though, is only achieved towards the end where the filial discourse reappears in the film. It serves as a reminder to Gaurav that there exists a world outside the enclosed space he has created, comprising only of Aryan and himself. Within this structure of analysis Gaurav’s suicide itself ‘symbolises’ the demise of the imaginary self and initiation into the real.