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Zero Movie Review: It Is Shah Rukh’s Career’s Best

Subhash K . Jha

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Zero

Starring:  Shah  Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Directed by Aanand L Rai

Rating: **** ½(4 and a  half stars)

When this achingly irreverent ode to misfits was over,I thought, how wonderful that Zero is  dedicated to Sridevi. No more befitting  homage could be paid to an entertainer who  brought us smiles all through her career.

Bauua Singh of Meerut is like that  only. He is a dwarf, and let’s not soften the  blow by beating around the bush about his shortcoming.  The brilliantly askew screenplay  by  Himanshu Sharma certainly doesn’t shy away from addressing disabilities. This is a  film that calls a spade a spade and then shovels us  a welter  of  speckled wisdom that I  last saw in Forrest Gump. Zero is like  a box of assorted  chocolates. You never know what the feeling would be in the  next one.

 Indeed Tom Hanks from  Forrest Gump would have chuckled approvingly at the insolent antics  of  Bauua Singh and his  palGuddu Singh(Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, torch in  hand, hair dyed  blonde) as they turn  the crowded city of Meerat into their personal  arena of  gratification. The film opens with a wacky sambar-western dream sequence where we see a ‘normal’ Shah Rukh Khan taking on his worst enemy in the world his father(Tigmanshu Dhulia, doing a  Sudhir Pandey) whose shrunken scrotum the dwarf hero openly blames for his shortcomings.Mom Sheebha Chadha is  too jaded to be embarrassed.

This is the  only time Shah Rukh stands at his actual height in the film. It reminded me of that one  time in Koyla when the  ‘mute’ Shah Rukh Khan spoke up in  a dream sequence because  the  distributors and exhibitors wanted   a ‘normal’  ShahRukh to speak up.

Ask Bauua Singh if he cares.

Zero is  a film that doesn’t believe in  numbers. In no time at all we lose count of the  number of times we loath Bauua’s self-obsession and then fall in love with his character again for doing something  unexpected that nobody believes he  could  . Like that kiss which the super-hot  Babita Kumari smacks on his  wet lips. Or for that matter, like this completely  unexpected  film from a uperstar  who  spent all  his life playing  only one role and has now discovered the  freedom of exploring  people who are flawed fractured and  therefore simply  fabulous.

Oh, I forgot!  What is Zero about? Well, it is about three fractured  lives , people who don’t feel sorry for their deficiencies and never threaten  fall apart because  there is really nowhere to go once you hit zero .Rather ,they pity those who  waste time pitying them. Bauaa Singh  in  pursuit of   a life partner courts and wins and loses the cerebral palsy inflicted space  scientist  Afia(Anushka Sharma, in an embarrassingly artificial performance) because…well, he has  the hots for  screen  queen BabitaKumari.

 As  Babita,  Katrina Kaif just tears  the screen apart.  Now where did that come from ? Kaif is so stunning  in her role as a  dumped  alcoholic actress, she gave me goosebumps every time her kohl-laden  eyes swelled up with unshed tears.In one of the film’s most enchanting  episodes she drags Bauaa out of  her party and then drags  herself  out of  a relationship that has her chained to misery.

In another episode  of magical  misgivings Bauua  woos Afia in the corridor of a posh hotel   with the the colours of   Holi,  a  symphonic orchestra and  little girls creating a cascade  of chorus rhapsodies that  only a Bauua Singh could conceive. The  mesmeric moments ends abruptly with the hotel manager complaining  about the mess on his premise.

 Bathos, a word  I am sure Bauua doesn’t know, rules his  life. To no one’s surprise  he decides  to chase  his lost love all the way to  the US,becomes an astronaut and replaces the moody monkey that was supposed to  fly to Mars.

Why  would Bauua  want to  be expelled to outerspace? Good question. He has a very special affinity with the stars, the ones and  above.And when the stars on earth  mock him for his overweening ambitions his ego, much larger than his physical stature, revolts.

There are many passages  of lyrical beauty in this gem of a  film, passages that may pass you by like ships sailing in the night,  if you aren’t vigilant.  Because, really,  Bauaa, doesn’t care  if you are watching or  not.

Zero is a film made out of the impulse to woo whimsy without getting anxious over the audiences’ attention. Not  all of it coheres, many sequences stand apart  in stubborn  isolation, and Anushka Sharma’s performance  brings the narrative down considerably.

But finally Zero works  . It celebrates  incompleteness as  no other movie in any language has ever done. Like the  film, BauaaSingh  isn’t afraid to fail. He has the great  immortal Sridevi telling him it’s okay to fail. I couldn’t ask for more. Can you?

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