Zero movie review: If it’s a Shah Rukh Khan film, it has to have a love story at the heart of it. Because there’s no other way we’d rather see Shah Rukh than spreading his arms, dimpling his cheeks and making us question the choice of our respective partners, probably sitting next to us right now.
It’s not that Bollywood has a dearth of love stories, but then, there’s no such thing as too romantic or too mushy.
Therefore, Aanand L Rai decided to jump into the pit, dirty his hands in the process if need be, and whip one up. Perfect casting — the king of romance, flanked by two of India’s prettiest women (since that’s a requirement in Bollywood) Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif, heartwarming songs — aur kya chahiye?
But, in its hunger to make it bigger and grander in scale than anything that’s been done before — in order to stand out, to be different, to be the first of its kind — Rai and Shah Rukh simply end up trying to master the impossible task of mixing water and oil. No matter how rigorously you stir, it’s not happening.
That’s exactly where Zero finds itself stuck.
The first half starts off like a gush of fresh air. Writer Himanshu Sharma’s wit and Shah Rukh’s impeccable comic timing is a deadly combination. The film establishes very early that this ‘bauna’ Bauua Singh from Meerut is not one to brood in a corner withering under taunts. You make a jibe at him — he will come back sharper, piercing through your heart, because he is certain that God's already dealt him a foul hand and it cannot get worse. But it always gets worse, doesn’t it?
At 38, he resorts to a matrimonial site and a marriage broker, hoping to find himself a bride. He finds his match in Aafia Bhinder (Anushka), and it’s the start of a love story like no other. A little bit about Aafia is important — she is a wheelchair-bound female scientist from NASA who’s just discovered water on the surface of Mars. She is sharp, she is an asset, but she (obviously) feels incomplete at heart because, you know, she is wheelchair-bound. In Bauua’s casual acceptance of his shortcomings (pun intended), she finds hope and finally stops feeling sorry for herself.
Katrina is no scientist. Neither is she a ‘dwarf’. She is a super-successful movie star, Babita Kumari, who has the whole of the nation literally chasing her through the streets, but who still finds herself incomplete, because, and wait for this, a bitter break-up with Abhay Deol. A chance encounter with Bauua helps her realise her own worth, and she finally moves on. In slow motion, teary-eyed, leaving Abhay wondering now that his role in this film is over, what's next for him?
We're all, apparently, incomplete, until we find love! (Source: Zero Movie Poster/Red Chillies Entertainment/Twitter)
So, you see, there's a pattern. Wherever Bauua goes, he wins hearts. And brings with him a happy realisation that if this 'dwarf' can rise above (pun intended) his challenges, why can't we? If you think that in this aspect alone, SRK's Bauua is reduced to just a circus clown, a show monkey who jumps hoops and makes others feel good about themselves, then welcome to the club.
But in his heart, this 'bauna' is not okay. Soon his facade fades away, baring his bleeding heart, rotting self-esteem and moth-eaten confidence. The armour that protects this ugly sight is built and fortified with insults — that's where he gets his kick from. And the superpowers too that enable him to count down to zero and make intergalactic balls of burning fire and gas — stars — fall. But then, we know that Shah Rukh and 'toot-ta tara' are old friends.
And then comes the second half.
And poof goes logic.
That's us, looking for logic in the second half! (Source: Zero Movie Poster/Red Chillies Entertainment/Twitter)
Now, we've already used words like 'ambitious' to describe films like Thugs Of Hindostan and Kedarnath in the recent past that have heavily relied on CGI, and mostly failed where it mattered most. So what does one call Zero, a film that leaves Meerut and straight up camps in NASA in the second half?
Oh, I know, reverse Swades!
Without giving out spoilers, that I'm actually holding in with great difficulty, let's just say that the rocket we see in the last leg of the Zero trailer is real. And you'd wish you were under it when it fired off.
Bollywood, and especially this charming man called Shah Rukh Khan, has taught me that if someone doesn't chase you down to the airport, railway station, or the metro station, at the very least, is it even love?
God knows how many times I ran just in the hope that I will be chased — not in a creepy way, duh — and that my name will be shouted across terminals in a dramatic, but befitting, expression of that mushy thing called love. But I've turned around to only find myself living this dream.
This time, Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan outdo themselves by chasing love up to another planet altogether!
On hindsight, this was perhaps Rai's way of saying that men are truly from Mars and therefore, they should just be left there. If that's the case, I get it.