Mani Ratnam once said that if there is a good reason to show something on film, the audience will understand it, however abstract the reason may be. This ‘good reason’ is missing for most parts in Zero.
The journey of a dwarf born from his hometown in Meerut to the planet Mars, interspersed with his love stories with a brilliant lady scientist suffering from cerebral palsy and a bitter superstar actress from Bollywood – the story of Zero sounds like the sort of whimsical storytelling you may have seen in Amelie, or Big Fish, or The Life of Walter Mitty to name a few.
In the hands of the capable Aanand L Rai, the brilliant Himanshu Sharma, and an exuberant Shah Rukh Khan, Zero is a grand attempt at an Indian fairy tale rarely seen in Indian cinema. And it is a difficult act to pull off. To their credit, is the sheer range of situations the film manages to pack in. But the problem is that none of them manages to move you the way they should. The reason is the writing. In a story like Zero, you do not expect logical explanations for driving the plot from one point to the next. But you expect SOME logic. Mani Ratnam once said that if there is a good reason to show something on film, the audience will understand the reason it is there, however abstract the reason may be. This ‘good reason’ is missing for most parts in Zero.
There’s simply no good explanation for how SRK’s Bauua behaves when he’s falling in and out of love with Anushka Sharma’s Afiya. It being the spine of the film, you find it hard to stay engaged over the 164-minute runtime. Indeed, the rare high points are when SRK is being himself more than Bauua, be it the beautifully shot Mera Naam Tu with him being the trademark king of romance, or the touching last exchange between him and Afiya as he embarks on his journey.
It is hard to see SRK struggle against the writing as he gives it his all in the role of a bratty, foul-mouthed but well-intended dwarf. The role is unique, one that is bound to draw attention and create expectations from every filmgoer. It is a lot of responsibility that SRK discharges with courage and gusto.
A fairy tale that is missing some magic, Zero fizzes and crackles, but never quite lifts off.
Hindi, Drama, Fantasy, Color