Bollywood’s version of Lee Daniels’, 2009 “Precious”; a galvanizing lesson to never judge “a book by its cover”; director Atul Manjrekar’s “Fanney Khan” incorporates much of the traditional Bollywood aesthetic: torrents of tears, scintillating songs, dramatic dance sequences, but it is the performance of Pihu Sand, “Lata Sharma” (similar to Gabourey Sidibe, in “Precious”) that stupendously soars with irresistible, incredible, prodigious talent. Lata, far from the norm, is rotund, lacking luminous glamour, assumed from stars of stage and screen, with her every number the winsomeness within gushes forth, leaving viewers astoundingly stultified by the wealth of her artistry. Anil Kapoor’s depiction of Lata’s adoring father, “Fanney Khan” is a humongous leap in his luminous career, without boundaries he sees the genius hibernating in his daughter; she is the answer to all his ambitions, dreams; he will do anything to energize her career, ultimately kidnapping “Baby Singh” (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), a blazing figure, an icon in the musical world.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s, (Miss World, 1994) “Baby Singh”, beauty is distracting, almost a liability; so heavenly to look at that it transcends her character; recognized by the producers, she challenges the second captor “Adir” (sweet, naïve, Rajkummar Rao) asking if one cannot be gorgeous, talented, intelligent, packaged exquisitely? Drooling, Adir acquiesces.
“Fanney Khan” emotionally manipulative, sensitively aware that the mass appeal is to those who identify with Lata; the “Baby Singh’s” are unattainable, beyond comprehension, celestial; “Lata’s” are within reach, earthly; perseverance might lead to discovery, fame; a life beyond cast, a life recognized because it is worthy; in hindsight, regardless of success, supreme joy in the effort, seeking and possibly actualizing one’s potential. This film resonates with promise, encouragement, sweeping, astute hope.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!