That title was a click bait, I concede. But everyone cannot be as honest as Aanand L. Rai, who covertly insinuated us to have ‘zero expectations’ from the movie by naming it ‘Zero‘. However, it is not as bad as the other ‘Khan movies’ this year. But if your benchmarks are ‘Race‘ and ‘Thugs of Hindostan‘, well, you are barely hanging on. Shah Rukh Khan makes an honest effort and this is his second movie, after Fan in 2016, where he shuns his larger than life image and genuinely tries to get into the character of a short man who has been persecuted all his life because of his height. Alas, efforts and results often mismatch, especially in fields where a lot of variables determine the eventuality. Similarly, despite Khan’s efforts Zero is reduced to a spluttering mess of forced conveniences.
Portraying the protagonist as a short man was only a gimmick. If you rewind the movie in your head with Shah Rukh playing an average small-town guy, the sequences play just as well. Because nowhere in the movie does the director define the inner conundrums of a man who is viewed as an anomaly by family and society. In fact, the ease with which Bauaa Singh (Khan) goes about wooing two women, moving countries and landing himself a gig with the US space station, the story would have felt much more realistic had Shah Rukh played himself! Such were the odds which Bauaa defied throughout the movie, that Leicester City would be proud. Yes, film making is make-belief and about creative liberties, but no one should be at the liberty of assuming the audience to be dim witted and easily entertained with stratagems.
The movie starts with Bauaa and his friends whiling away their time watching Babita Kumari’s (Katrina Kaif) movies or one upping a rickshaw puller. Bauaa is 38 years old and is jobless and not able to find a suitable girl for marriage. The word jobless is to be noted here because throughout the movie we see him splurging on women and traveling business class. With a disapproving father at home, I wonder what his income source is. Ah, creative liberties I guess! Finally he meets Aafiya (Anushka Sharma), a Space scientist with cerebral palsy. Aafiya is soon drawn to Bauaa and his antics end up getting the girl contemplating marriage. I tried very hard to buy Anushka’s differently abled act, but I failed. It is distracting to watch her talk to people with a facial difficulty, yet, in more than one scene, she seems to forget about the disability. I remembered the year’s best movie Andhadhun where we were constantly doing guess work about Aayushman’s character being blind/ semi blind, well, the confusion seemed to exist here too, however unintentional. The surprise package of the movie was Katrina Kaif. Her Babita channelled all the turmoil from any Bollywood diva’s life where the smudged mascara and the tiara go hand in hand. And if you are still guessing, yes, our Bauaa gets to woo her as well.
Zero seems to be a sum total of balderdash which some drunk guy tells his friends in a bar and everyone is too drunk to even connect the dots and call his bluff. What disappointed me so much was that this is supposed to be an Aanand L. Rai movie. The man who recently produced Tummbad and has helmed brilliant small town romances like Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa, seems to be straightjacketed into making a massy low brainer. I know I will alienate a few people here, but I just cannot see how Aanand made this movie without any external ‘inputs or influences’ from people bigger than the movie. In all the movies Ananad has directed or produced, you will hear a beating heart, both of the city and the characters. He even made Dhanush appear convincing as a Banarasi guy! Zero is so forced that you just see the direction working on cruise control.
All the effort notwithstanding, this is another failure for Shah Rukh Khan. Knowing him, we cannot press the panic button just yet, but our fingers are reaching for it. Both Fan and Zero are bogged down by their aspiration to become something different or path breaking. We see a Bollywood Demi-God in the role of an underdog. That should have been reason enough to invest in the story. However, the team wanted to trump every scene by making the next even more bizzare. Eventually it has lead to the movie’s downfall.
Zero is passable at best. The first half will get a few chuckles from families going in for some entertainment, but the second half will just annoy and bore you to death.
A note for all the film-makers—
A 2 hour and 44 minute movie plus all the hundreds of ads which these Multiplexes run before and during the interval, makes it a tedious job for the audience to stay invested. I was inside a movie hall for 3 hours and 30 mintues! Too much time to be wasted on a drab like Zero