Shahrukh Khan has been on an experimental spree for the last two years. His recent collaborations have all been with off-beat directors and his film projects have largely focused on subjects that are a clear departure from his three-decade stint as Indian cinema’s greatest on-screen romantic. From Fan to Dear Zindagi and from Raees to Zero, Khan has tried to reinvent himself with each new film. Of course, the ill-fated When Harry Met Sejal saw him once again in the romantic hero avatar, however as far as the overall execution and feel of the film was concerned, Harry was no Raj or Rahul.
And while one must appreciate the superstar’s efforts to step out of his comfort zone, one does wonder, why, each of his recent movies have been a let-down for his fans. It is not that his recent films did not have good plots, but – with the exception of Fan – they all seemed to fall short of realizing their own true potential.
Zero, too, leaves the audience grappling with a similar feeling.
What’s the Film About?
The film revolves around Bauua Singh, a dwarf who does not allow his inferiority complex to come in the way of his adventurous – and often callous – sex life. Despite being extremely brash and self-centered, when it comes to women, Bauua unleashes a charm that is irresistible even for a world-renowned scientist and an A-class film actress.
But Zero is much more than a vertically challenged man’s story of sexual exploits. More than anything else, Zero is a tale of seeking forgiveness and attaining redemption.
And while the director tries very hard to score this point in the second half, it seems lost owing to the inconsistency of the narrative and a complete disconnect between the two women whose presence in his life leads Bauua to embark on a journey of self-refection and eventually self-correction.
Zero is a Signature Anand L. Rai Film
But this inconsistency would not come as a surprise for those who are familiar with Anand L. Rai’s body of work. The director – even in his most celebrated films such as Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa – does not carry a uniform tone throughout, shifting between moods and various shades of the characters without investing much in smoothly transitioning from one phase of his protagonists’ lives to the other. This inconsistency might seem careless at first, but after Zero, I am convinced that it is intentional and can very well be considered Rai’s signature. Perhaps, he wants to depict people as they are: unpredictable, spontaneous and, as his execution of films, inconsistent.
And while Anand L. Rai’s signature might resonate with a few, it is not likely to woo the masses at large. This, is perhaps the single most important reason why Zero has attracted such polarized reviews.
The film falters grandly in the editing department. Not only is it far too long at 164 minutes, but its editing is choppy in places, leaving one surprised given the magnitude of the film’s budget!
Performances & Production
All the actors shine in their Zero avatars. Shahrukh Khan plays the obnoxious Bauua with a lot of conviction. Anushka Sharma, as the wheelchair bound Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder is most endearing. Katrina Kaif owns Babita Kumari and her many complex layers like a pro. Tigmanshu Dhulia, known for directing such films as Paan Singh Tomar and Sahib, Biwi aur Gangster is a treat to watch as Bauua’s disciplinarian, rich father.
VFX has been used very intelligently, ensuring that Zero does not become an unholy cross between animation and live action but retains its humanity.
The song Mere Naam deserves a special mention. With its earnest softness, surprisingly well-written lyrics and colorful visuals, it is perfect in every sense of the word.
The film is neither as tightly executed as Fan nor is it completely off the mark as When Harry Met Sejal. Zero is a product that lies some where in between the two extremes and so, while it is an okay one-time watch, it is unlikely to be anything more than that.