FANAA IS THE new-breed cinema of Bollywood that tries to mix the glamour of film industry with the realities of life. It will be fair to say that this film turns its subject into fantasy and weaves it with music and dance, but when it comes to the dénouement, the film holds the values that are inherent in the Indian mindset regarding Kashmir. The film relies heavily on subtle metaphors.
Fanaa is a film about a blind woman from Kashmir, played by the renowned actress Kajol. And, this time the Indian filmmakers have substituted Poland, or such exotic European locations, for Kashmir. Her parents are off and indulge in poetry. She goes with a troupe to perform at the Republic Day function in New Delhi. There, she falls in love with a playboy, played by Aamir Khan. He brings back her eyesight, but before she can see him he disappears. After that, the real face of her lover is uncovered. He actually works for an international ‘terrorist’ group. And, he is with Kajol to fulfil his mission. And, he counts his mission to be the most important thing in his life. Circumstances bring them face-to-face again after several years, and finally the climax is quite reminiscent of Bollywood hits, like Mother India and Shakti.
Khan is turning out to be next Mr Bharat after Manoj Kumar. All his films of the past seven years, barring Mela and Dil Chahata Hai, were patriotic in nature. Fanaa, directed by Kunal Kohli and produced under the Yash Raj banner, is set in the backdrop of Kashmir. And, it is Kashmir of only four people, who are pitted against Khan. The film does not show the disgruntled Kashmiri to have any aim. He vaguely fights for an international ‘terrorist’ group. He is sophisticated and suave, flirtatious but deadly. Love, family and children do not matter to him. But, the reasons for his choices and condition in life are never mentioned. Therefore, the viewer takes him to be confused, which is again a cunning metaphor.
Kohli has tried to keep the screenplay of Fanaa ambiguous, which helps to hold the interest of the audience but drags at the climax. But, it has become a speciality of the Yash Raj banner. The music of Jatin-Lalit, which incidentally is the duo’s last combined effort, is a disappointment. The close-ups of Khan reveal the ageing star. But, his looks are quite refreshing, while Kajol is as effervescent as she was in her last hit Kabhi Khushi, Kabhi Gham. It has breath-taking stunts in snow, and its locales are quite astounding. The chemistry between Khan and Kajol is outstanding, particularly towards the dénouement. The film broke the box office record in the first week by collecting a whopping Rs 33 crores.
It is another Bollywood potboiler that circumvents the Kashmir issue and reaffirms what other Bollywood films convey: women and middle-aged men against militants. Interestingly, only Kashmiri women are allowed to perform at the Republic Day function in the film, while a Kashmiri man when given entry causes devastation. The other lacuna, which is common to the most Bollywood films made on the Kashmir issue, is the complete absence of the aspirations of the Kashmiri masses, their sufferings and the heavy emotional and physical pain they undergo.
Like the other Yash Raj films it is a fairytale story sewed with the emotionality of a Kashmiri backdrop. Do not get surprised if this film becomes a cult for filmmakers. As said earlier, the director has used metaphors quite stunningly and cunningly. One cannot help but fault the ill-defined patriotism of the movie.
But, Fanaa has succeeded where other mainstream films have failed. For the first time in the history of Indian cinema one hears about Kashmiris being deprived of the promised referendum. Secondly, it is shown a ‘terrorist’ group operating in Kashmir is not controlled by Pakistan. The film goes one step ahead by showing an understanding between the two countries on terrorism.
The film acknowledges the use of popular entertainment as means of political mobilisation or propaganda. The best popular films are being crafted with a dangerous liaison of fact and fantasy, which confuses the audience and easily leads it astray. It is in such a context that films like Fanaa from Bollywood need to be assessed before we watch them.