Just what did Aanand L Rai and Shah Rukh Khan find so appealing about this script that they ended up making such a disappointing dud, wonders Deepa Gahlot
When a director literally shortens a superstar, then the story being told should justify it, or it remains at the level of gimmick—oh, look what the VFX guys can do! But not once in the film do you feel that things would have been different if the character had been of “normal” (a word they use) size.
In Aanand L Rai’s Zero, Shah Rukh Khan plays Bauua Singh, a dwarf, who makes up for the lack of height and his family’s contempt (though they seem to give him enough money to blow up on frippery), with extra swagger. The thirty-eight-year old Meerut man, with the mandatory sidekick Guddu (Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub), is besotted by film star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif) and has his friend refer to her as “bhabhi”.
A photo at the office of a matchmaker leads him to Aafia (Anushka Sharma), a scientist, who is wheelchair-bound because of cerebral palsy. Since she is a bit affronted by this little man vying for her attention when she is clearly “out of his league,” Bauua makes it a point to persistently woo and win her. This self-confessed middle-class man spends six lakhs on an extravagant Holi bash just to take her to bed? Because after this is done, he changes his number and vanishes. He explains that he is a “koel” that can only lay eggs in other birds’ nests.(Then why has he registered with a matrimonial service?)
Aafia pursues him, however, and on the wedding day, Bauua runs away, because he has a chance to properly meet Babita, who, at an earlier drunken encounter had kissed him.
He has managed to reach the finals of a dance competition (where and when did the elimination rounds happen?) that makes him eligible to have a date with her. The actress, nursing a broken heart, picks up Bauua as a confidant, the reason being totally unconvincing.
But Bauua realises it is Aafia he really loves and with remarkable ease makes his way to the US and right into NASA, where she is working on a “billion dollar” space programme, to send a manned mission to Mars. The film, not too engaging to begin with, and kept aloft somehow by Khan’s charm, derails completely. Without getting into spoiler territory, all one can say is that the US ought not to hand over its space-conquering plans to unstable Indians.
The VFX that turns Khan into a vertically challenged person reduces him to the size of a child, so instead of looking short, he looks small, which is not the same thing; but still the sequences are not badly done. It’s the pointlessness of the plot and the tepidness of the love story that is so exasperating, because the actors have done their best. Anushka Sharma is a dependably good actress, but even Katrina Kaif has excelled as the emotionally needy Babita. The big question is what did Rai and Khan find so appealing about this script that they ended up making such a disappointing dud.
Directed by Aanand L Rai
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif and others
Rating: Two stars
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.