Inadequacies. Failures. Shortcomings. These are the few defining characteristics of a human being, that differentiates it from being God. The fallacy in one’s self, is what makes man mortal. They say, to err is human. A momentary lapse in judgement, can alter lives. A decision taken in haste, can cause pain for an eternity. And precisely these things make us alive. Our choices define what we are. It’s upto us, the individual, on which choice we want to make, what flaw we want to exploit, what life we want to make. Aanand L Rai’s ‘Zero’ is the story of a man and a woman and the choices they make. It’s an audacious attempt at a storytelling that borders on cringe sometimes, even tries to test your levels of patience. But trust me, like love, it takes time to grow on you. And once you’ve fallen for it, there’s no going back.

Hailing from Meerut, born in an affluent family, Bauwa Singh despises being called a dwarf and blames his father’s low sperm count for it, as a result of his habit of chewing tobacco. Like all of us, he also tries to hide his inefficiencies, in his case, by his father’s wealth. In his tryst to get married, he comes across Aafia, whose disability is not a hindrance in her becoming the first scientist to have discovered water in mars. A troubled beginning eventually leads to both falling heads over heels for each other. A chance encounter with Babita Kumari, a film star, makes Bauwa question his own decision and he runs away from the wedding, to be with Babita. Rest forms the crux of the story about how Bauwa realises his true worth and his true love.

Aanand L Rai, whose filmography boasts of the earthy stories, from the small towns of the country, chooses a subject that is quite unique. A story about three individuals, where they all are fighting their own battles. Like his other protagonists such as Tanuja Trivedi from ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and Sundar from ‘Ranjhaana’, all three protagonists are characterised as flawed. Bauwa is a dwarf, yet he’s cocky about life and himself. Aafia battles an illness yet she’s driven towards her goal. Babita, is heartbroken from her love affairs yet she’s a bitch, when it comes to the world. On paper, the combo looks delectable. However, it’s the weak writing, which is basically all over the place, becomes the bane. The story sets up nicely, to arrive at an interesting point at intermission. Post intermission, it goes haywire. It feels like, a little bit of too much everywhere, muddles the water. It’s a pity because this germ of an idea, could’ve become something great. The VFX work and cinematography is something that the film, literally can boast of.

Performance wise, it’s the ensemble cast that enhances the entire setup. Mohd Zeeshan Ayub lights up the screen with his antics and clever one liners. Tigmanshu Dhulia, as Bauwa’s father Ashok and Sheeba Chaddha as the mother have a small yet funny appearance. There’s a whole lot of Bollywood heroines appearing in a sequence, including late Sridevi. Even Salman Khan appears as himself in a song. From the leading cast, Anushka Sharma as Aafia does a neat take on a Stephen Hawking-esque role. It’s a physically challenging role but she pulls it off pretty well. Katrina Kaif, in a role that kind of mimics her personal life, sizzles in her limited screen time.

Which brings us to the final piece of puzzle. The curious case of Mr. Khan. A director’s actor, he immerses himself into the role of Bauwa Singh. Thanks to some nifty VFX work, he looks like a real dwarf. He imbibes a cocky essence of a grown up man, who’s born dwarf. He aces the accent and mannerisms of a small town guy. But the screenplay fails to tap his full potential. The story goes into top gear in the second half and that’s when all hell breaks loose. It feels sad to see a man, ready to embrace newer, challenging roles, only to be failed by half-baked scripts.

The film deserves two and half stars but almost 25 years of blind devotion for the man, pushes me to add a half more. The critic has done his job. The fan, well, he will wait for the next one.

P.S – There will be many stars and actors. But no one does romance like King Khan. Period. Watch the ‘Mere Naam Tu’ song to get wooed by the man himself. Goosebumps!

The Cinemawala Rating:3/5

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