This week’s release Fan is about a man’s obsession with Shah Rukh Khan, who plays himself. We live in a country of crazy star worshippers, who go to the extent of building temples to their movie idols and, sometimes, going to the extent of killing themselves for the sake of the star.
Back in 1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed a charming comedy called Guddi, so far the definitive film about fandom. Jaya Bhaduri (now Bachchan) fresh out of the Film & Television of India (FTII) played Kusum or Guddi, a schoolgirl from a middle class family, who has a huge crush on Dharmendra. Hrishida was wonderful with gently humorous little stories about ordinary people, and with Gulzar’s dialogue, the film was a gem that everyone who was ever a fan of a star would identify with. Guddi lives with her father (A. K. Hangal), brother (Vijay Sharma) and sister-in-law (Sumita Sanyal) and is surrounded with loved ones who want to see her happy.
Like so many people, more so in the pre-TV days when stars were not in everyone’s drawing room, Guddi’s teenage passion for the star is strong and unshakeable. She is not able to understand the Perfect Man Dharmendra plays on screen does not exist—the characters he plays in films are fictional, created by a team of behind-the-scene professionals whose job it is to turn the actor into a convincing screen character.
When Guddi rejects the proposal from her sister-in-law’s brother Navin (Samit Bhanja) and tells her family that she is in love with Dharmendra, they are astounded. But there is no screaming-slapping melodrama. Navin’s uncle, Professor Gupta suggests that the only way to make the girl understand the difference between reality and cinema is to take her to see how films are made.
The uncle pulls some strings and gets her into shootings (some stars made guest appearances for Hrishida), Guddi sees that everything is make-believe. Dharmendra—playing himself—sportingly agrees to get beaten up by Navin so that the scales finally fall from Guddi’s eyes and she realises that the star is just a normal human being like everybody else and agrees to marry Navin.
The film was a romantic comedy and a coming-of-age story with just the right blend of emotions; just like many children grow up when they realize Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are not real, Guddi grows up when she understands that love is also a matter of perception.
Shah Rukh stalking Shah Rukh is, of course, taking fandom to another level.