There is a saying in Hindi that goes ‘log chadhte suraj ko salaam karte hain’ which roughly translates to ‘people salute the rising sun’. This proverb is very relevant in the Hindi film industry where people put a star on a pedestal when his films are doing well and start writing his obituary when his films start failing. In the last couple of years, most of the film which Shah Rukh Khan has been a part of have either failed or under-performed at the box-office. Another thing that one note about the superstar is that in these years, he has actually tried to experiment with a wide variety of roles, something that deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated. His new film ‘Zero’ is being looked upon as a crucial film in his career. It is a film, which many believe, will decide whether he will continue to reign as a superstar or his days as a leading actor are numbered. The director of the film Aanand L. Rai has three clean successes to his name as a director, so his involvement is something that raises expectations for sure.
The film opens with Bauua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan), a vertically challenged man, dreaming about being a tall, lanky young man standing up to protect the modesty of a woman who is being harassed by a bunch of men. Soon enough, he wakes up from his slumber and we realise he is far removed from the kind of person he was dreaming about himself to be. Bauua lives in Meerut, a small city in Uttar Pradesh and has severe complex about him being a vertically challenged person. Despite his father (Tigmanshu Dhulia) constantly chiding him for not doing anything with his life, Bauua has had a fairly privileged upbringing and conveniently uses his money to control the people around him and make himself feel important. His life makes significant turns when he comes across two women – Aafia, who heads over heels in love with him and Babita Kumari, a Hindi film super star whom Bauua has been love with ever since he saw her on the screen for the first time.
Director Aanand L. Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma know the world, they set their films in, well. This was evident in ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, ‘Raanjhanaa’ and ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ and the milieu is used as a character in this film as well. Though one does not get to see much of Meerut in the second half, the presence of the city and its characteristics is palpable in the first half. The screenplay has strikes a fine balance between humour, drama, romance and emotions. As always, Himanshu Sharma does a great job with the dialogues. In fact, the lines play an important role in bringing out the different kind of emotions – which are the mainstay of the film – to the fore. And when Aanand’s dexterous direction comes into the play, the writing comes alive on the screen in a magnificent manner. There are a few things that are said in a wonderfully subtle manner. For instance, Aafia’s Muslim name and her mother’s surname (Yusufzai) precedes her Sikh father’s surname (Bhinder) and this is not something which is not something which is overstated. When she is about to get married to Bauua, she addresses a bunch of relatives belonging to different ethnicities.
It is the first half where the film falters in places. The Babita Kumari track (yes, it is just a track featuring Katrina Kaif in a small role) could have been developed a little better. There are some highly memorable moments in that track too but one felt it ended too quickly. There was so much promise in the character which was not explored well. The second half could have also benefitted from some trimming as there a few scenes that do not really take the film forward and just add to its length.
Shah Rukh Khan uses VFX as a tool and not a crutch to portray Bauua Singh. His performance is exemplary. Bauua has several layers to him and the actor brings out every layer to the fore very effectively. Anushka Sharma is extremely endearing as Aafia. She looks gorgeous and lends a lot of dignity and charm to her character. Katrina Kaif does fairly well within the scope she gets. She does not get much of screen time and that is a pity as her character had a lot of potential to be developed further. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub shines in the role of Guddu. He has been delivering good performances consistently ever since he made his film debut with ‘No One Killed Jessica’ and this film bears another testimony to the fact that he is one of the finest actors around. Tigmanshu Dhulia is good in a small but significant role.
In the last couple of years, Shah Rukh Khan experimented with different kind of roles. While his performances left little to complain, the films he did left a lot to be desired. ‘Zero’ is a film that does complete justice to the talent of the superstar and is easily the best film he has done in years.