Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma
Director: Anand L Rai
Bauaa Singh (Shah Rukh Khan), a vertically challenged 38-year-old man in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, likes to see himself as a cowboy in recurring dreams. Bauaa’s father Ashok is almost always the enemy in them. Bauaa shuts up Ashok while speaking French and flashing guns. Apparently, this is because of Bauaa’s subconsciously channelled anger towards his father—Bauaa blames Ashok for his short height. At one point, he says it has happened because his father chews ‘gutakha.’
This opening act shows promise and Shah Rukh seems he belongs in Anand L Rai’s (the man behind Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanaa) scheme of things—small town set-up, quirky dialogues, carefree attitude and a possibility of bizarre romances. Hope is a dangerous word as a scientist with cerebral palsy would later explain in the film. So, you hope this all goes in the right direction and the dust settles down to finally push Shah Rukh forward with a memorable character. Unfortunately, these are the only 10 minutes worth remembering in Zero, a film laden with flat jokes and ill-planned scenes.
And so begins a series of absurd encounters between Bauaa and the scientist, Aafia (Anushka Sharma). We are told she is half-Afghan, half-Punjabi, and has a never say die attitude. Her love story, for the lack of better word, with Bauaa involves another dimension—a broken film star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif). Bauaa manages to get in the good books of Babita only to be torn between the two. At least, this is what Rai’s intentions look like.
However, what transpires in reality is a different story altogether.
What could have been a terrific narrative about how people with special needs deal with societal pressure and conventional ignorance turns into a caricature of science and logic. You’ll see wheelchair-bound Aafia zooming forward on American roads while she could have taken a car or Babita staging a scene to make Bauaa realise his mistakes about love. The problem is that all of this takes place in seriousness—had it been projected as another gag, it would have been understandable, but no, you have to take them seriously, what else a romantic hero is supposed to do!
Himanhsu Sharma, the writer of the hilarious Tanu Weds Manu films, is completely out of form and doesn’t know how to tame the beast that grew bigger within minutes. Zero just keeps getting more inexplicable in the never-ending second half.
Then there is a talk about normal people, how they feel and how incomplete the characters of Zero are. Nobody seems to realise that the whole conflict of Zero was about feeling ‘normal’ and not differentiate on the basis of physical differences. But that’s Zero’s least of the problems.
Things escalate real quick—actually that’s the hallmark of Zero. Anything can happen anytime. In one moment, you’ll see a crowd of Bollywood actresses, including Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Sridevi, making fun of Bauaa at a party, and in the other, Salman Khan dancing with him on the stage. These 20 minutes kept especially aside for an Om Shanti Om style Bollywood parade, has no contribution whatsoever in the film. It’s probably an afterthought to add more luster. By then, the audience already gives up on any new development.
Out of the 165-minutes duration, Shah Rukh uses a major chunk in walking with only ‘kachcha-baniyan’ on, and it can happen abruptly. He wouldn’t mind if it’s a NASA party or a private party, he would simply throw his clothes away while everybody else is dressed up. What do I say? To each his own.
Zero is a fantasy ride that ends up nowhere. From writing to direction and editing, everything has failed the project. If given a chance between Jab Harry Met Sejal and Zero, I would probably go for the former. Yes, it’s that uninspiring.
But you know what? The best was saved for the last. Anushka Sharma says, “Tu bhaaga nahi Bauee (You didn’t run away Bauaa)?” All I can do now is to blame it on occupational hazard, and you thought watching a Shah Rukh Khan film is always fun.