ZERO (2018)

  • Release Date: 21/12/2018
  • Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Tigmanshu Dhulia
  • Director: Aanand L. Rai

Bauua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) knows just two ways to deal with a world that has purposefully looked down upon him. He either silences them with his wisecracks or shoves his wealth in their mouths. He is in constant denial of his diminished stature and considers himself to be nothing short of great. His infectious confidence and flamboyance rub on to Aafia (Anushka Sharma), a mathematical genius suffering from Cerebral Palsy who plans to launch man on Mars. In Bauua she finds a man who treats her in the same manner as he would any other girl that he is trying to hit on. Bauua is also not afraid to accept freely that he wants to sleep with her. Such is his charm that Aafia falls in love with him. Bauua, who for so long was playing all cool and suave is now faced with a situation where he can either marry her and be among equals or pursue his dream of chasing down a film star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif) who he has been obsessing about for as long as he can remember.

Zero has a cracking fast half that is marked by witty writing and some laugh out loud moments that will have anyone in splits. Most of the comedy is derived from the stereotypes that we associate with a man who is vertically challenged—is aware of it— and still trying to be cocky about it. I loved the lecherous nature of Bauua and how he is so very cool about it all. He is not afraid to rub his lusty intentions on Aafia’s face but he does so with a kind of simplicity that is hard not to fall in love with. Aanand L. Rai knows the local milieu all too well to mess it up and he infuses the primary characters with enough charm and quirky comic lines to make the first half feel breezy. To me, it felt like 20 minutes as I was so invested in the drama that was unfolding even though I could see the director asking me to suspend my disbelief at more than one juncture. The writer Himanshu Sharma deserves credit too for his dialogues that are humorous and meaningful.

Post interval Zero becomes a whole new beast. The moment Bauua runs to join a dance competition to get a date with Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif), the film dives into a rut from which it never fully recovers. The film still shows a few flashes of brilliance here and there but they are never enough to rescue it from the downward spiral that it quickly descends into. After such a terrific first half, the lack of innovation and the sudden lack of comedy sticks out even more. The story gets even crazier with unnecessary and plain lazy twists and turns that neither makes any impact nor makes any sense. Bauua gets through so many things so easily that after a point the suspension of disbelief becomes impossible. This is where the film starts getting tedious.

Bauua’s motivations are also confused and the track between him and Babita Kumari is so implausible that it becomes impossible to take it seriously. Add to that a lack of comic relief, an unsure tone in which the film jumps between being light, serious and borderline dark, too many enforced songs that are not hummable and you have a confused treatment that starts getting on your nerves. The ending proved to be the final nail in the coffin.

Having said all that, Shah Rukh Khan has done a fantastic job with the character of Bauua and I haven’t seen him perform in such an unabashed manner for years. His magic is what keeps the second half of the film flowing. In certain scenes, he gets under your skin. Even though you hate Bauua for certain things that he did, you want him to get back what he wants. In the first half, he hits the comic timing just right with Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. He shares an organic chemistry with Anushka and you can actually feel his charm as he goes about wooing Aafia. The authoritative manner in which he speaks and the stature that he has to go with that tone makes you laugh at almost every dialogue that he cracks. Suffice is to say that Shah Rukh Khan will be loved and remembered for this character even though this film didn’t deserve such a stellar act.

Anushka Sharma does well enough. We all know that she is a fine actress and she puts her heart and soul into her roles. However, the character she plays here hasn’t been researched as well as it should have been and I could see a lot of slips in the manner in which she speaks which often took me out of the character. However, she does exceedingly well in certain emotional scenes that really hit you at the core. They, in so many ways, compensate for the slip-ups. Katrina Kaif is barely there and going by the character that she has been made to play here, I don’t see any point of further pointing out the deficiencies that we all know she has. If it’s any consolation, she did perform a tad bit better here as an alcoholic-broken-diva then what she does when she is playing balanced characters. Tigmanshu Dhulia as Bauua’s father is apt and so is Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.

On the technical side, the cinematography of Zero is beautiful. I loved the manner in which the song “Mere Naam Tu” is executed. The VFX are good especially the rendering of Bauua but in certain scenes, he feels more dwarf than in others where he feels more like a polished and diminished version of Shah Rukh Khan. The music is s stickler apart from the “Mere Naam Tu” track. This is a film that should have been half an hour shorter and that says a lot about the editing.

I had high hopes for Zero but even after a cracking first half, this film ended up feeling like a collection of well-executed videos that just don’t have the adhesive to join them all together into a cohesive plot. The fact that with every passing minute, the film gets more and more absurd and the director doesn’t seem entirely convinced on how he wants us to feel about the film, Zero becomes a film that is difficult to like.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

 

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