Zero: An Incoherent Mess
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Bauua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) is a vertically challenged, young man from Meerut whose favorite pastimes include spending his father’s money irresponsibly and ogling at Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif), inappropriately. One day, his stars align and lead him to Aafia (Anushka Sharma), A scientist for NASA who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. They are poles apart but instantly bond over their disabilities and soon the two find themselves falling in love with each other’s eccentricities. Things sail by smoothly until circumstances take Bauua to Mumbai where he is acquainted with Babita and also manages to shake a leg with Salman Khan. Here on Bauua and his love-life, miscalculations and unexpected tryst with the US Space Centre form the crux of the film.
After SRK’s Fan, you can’t help but have great expectations for Zero, his collaboration with Anand L Rai, a director known for coining his stories with a strong sense of rootedness while also dousing his screenplay with an arresting blend of emotions. As expected, the film starts off well. Just as you sink into your seat, adjusting to Bauua’s charm, you realize, Zero is going to fail your expectations terribly. Firstly, its story is puzzling, the manner in which it unravels is incoherent and the plot points appear incredibly random. From start to finish, you keep wondering ‘What on earth is happening in this film’. A film that dives from Meerut to Mars with no sense of direction and no clear focus is headed for disaster. The question that really presses itself onto your mind is ‘how this able team never saw this coming?’
Zero never takes off due to a few key mishaps. The manner in which the writer conceives the relationship between Bauua and Aafia is troublesome. Maybe writer Himanshu Sharma wrote a romance between these two because of the intensity their understanding of being the outsider might bring; this isn’t wrong. But problems arise because Zero tries to tell us that Bauua and Aafia are equals only because of their disabilities. Isn’t this wrong? As Aafia says at one point, isn’t she out of Bauua’s league? Her intelligence cannot be steamrolled just because Bauua shares a disability too, can it? This is what the writer-director duo could’ve treated with much more sensitivity.
One of the prime reasons why people can’t help but fall in love with characters like Bauua and Aafia is how they bear their flaws, scars, and eccentricities with pride. They are unconventional and they would have it no other way. Take Barfi, for instance, Barfi and Jill Mill click together like Butter and Toast. Their quirks make them loveable. But Zero prefers to strip its lead character, Bauua off his quirks. Bauua Singh is no different from any other prototype Bollywood hero. God forbid he be a flawed human being or an outcast. He flings open his arms like SRK, he shakes a leg with Salman, parties with Bollywood A-Listers and is eventually painted as a treasurable patriot. Does he become acceptable only if he is and does all the things mentioned above? Does the story demand it? When the answer to both these questions is a stern no, why then did the team of Zero bring in such cliched plot elements to destroy the rootedness of this story?
If a conventional definition of a hero is what the director is after then why bring together such unconventional characters? By trying to make a film half like an SRK film and the other half like an Anand L Rai film, the director seems to have lost his signature style in this feature. The rootedness and emotional impact of his stories are traded for incoherent grandeur, sleazy item songs, unwarranted cameos, and unacceptable heroism. It is utterly disappointing because it is a true rarity to see such big stars come together for such unconventional roles. So, when they finally do, if the story goes for a toss, it is a frustrating experience, to say the least.
As Bauua Singh, Shah Rukh Khan delivers an average performance. His portrayal in Fan was much more memorable. As Aafia, Anushka is awkward, clumsy and far from portraying the accurate body language of a person with cerebral palsy. Kalki Koechlin’s portrayal in Margherita With A Straw came closer. Out of the lot, Katrina Kaif delivers a surprisingly refreshing performance as Babita Kumari. She portrays her character’s vulnerability with precision.
Visually, Zero is too picture perfect. Just like the narrative, the visuals too try to destroy any trace of flaws, making it unrealistic at times. The VFX is good and convincing. However, the music is quite average.
On the whole, Zero is inconsistent, bizarre and at times, insensitive. By all means, sit this one out.