Zero Review (SPOILERS): TOO MUCH PLOT!!!!

First, most importantly, ANGIE! And all other Maddy Fans! Maddy is in it for about 15 minutes cumulatively and all he does is stand there looking solid and sensitive in glasses with shaggy hair. Barely has a character. But looks quite good. Everyone else: this movie was a disappointment, but probably still more enjoyable if you go in fresh than if you go in SPOILED. This review is for those who absolutely cannot see it in theaters, or who have already seen it and want to discuss.

Whole plot in two paragraphs:

Shahrukh is a middle-aged Little Person living in Meerut (mid-sized city in central India). He spends his father’s money constantly, doesn’t work, and has a crush on the actress played by Katrina Kaif. And then he is called up by a marriage broker and asked how he could break the heart of Anushka Sharma, so in flashback and voice over, Shahrukh tells his friend Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub all about how he seduced her. Anushka was an American scientist who came back to Meerut to get an award from her school. She has cerebral palsy, but is brilliant. At first, he insults her and she humiliates him. Frustrated, he decides to force her to see him and woos her assiduously, eventually seducing her. And then changing his phone number and avoiding her. It’s been a month, his friend is shocked at what he has done but Shahrukh has no regrets. And then they go home to discover she has found his address and his parents have confirmed the wedding. The day before the wedding, Katrina Kaif comes to Meerut for a mall opening, she is miserable and drunk after a broken love affair, Shahrukh and Mohammed go to see her appearance and chase down her car as she leaves, she stops the car and kisses Shahrukh on impulse. This gives him the pride and confidence the next day to go to the wedding and tell Anushka everything that is in his heart, and then he runs away from the wedding to enter a dance competition in an effort to meet Katrina again.

Shahrukh wins the dance competition and gets to meet Katrina again at a party, where all the other leading actresses of film are gathered around as well. He becomes Katrina’s confidant, and friend. Eventually Katrina helps him realize that he really does love Anushka, it just took all this time to see it. He makes a scene at her party, forcing her to throw him out so he will be free to go to Anushka, and with that confidence, she goes back in and finally breaks up with her toxic ex Abhay Deol. Shahrukh goes to America to find Anushka and makes a romantic scene, and then learns she had his baby and is now engaged to Maddy. She didn’t know at the wedding she was pregnant, she was fine without him but then his family forced the marriage on her and she got happy and excited, and he broke her heart. Shahrukh, to stay close to her, enters the training program at the Not-NASA where she works. He succeeds so well that it is suggested he replace the ape trained for the Mars mission. He challenges Anushka that she will stop him before the mission, she loves him too much, and she challenges him that he will be a coward and run away again. At the last minute, she runs from her wedding to the control room to say good-bye, and he goes to Mars. The end of the film is 15 years later, his capsule finally re-entering the atmosphere and the top popping off to reveal his hand coming up as he declares his love for Anushka again.

Image result for zero poster
Also, there’s a whole thing about how Anushka can’t send the chimp into space because his family would miss him too much.

You see what I mean about too much plot? Really, this is about a man who seduced a woman out of spite and the sense that she was vulnerable, then felt forced to marry her, and ran away at the last minute to pursue something better. Only to discover he loved her after all, and desperately try to win her back. To turn his back on the amazing fantasy woman, or rather to be taught by the amazing fantasy woman that women are people too and not fantasies, and what he had was true love, but without the filmi trimmings.

That scene between them before the wedding is a marvel. We can sense that Shahrukh wants to run away, is planning to run away, and I was expecting him to run without talking to her. But instead, he tries to be as honest as he possibly can to her and she is honest in return. It is the kind of confrontation we never get in Indian films, an honest and messy discussion of what this relationship is from both sides. Shahrukh acknowledges he didn’t want this, he isn’t meant for marriage, he doesn’t want to settle down. And Anushka argues back that they are perfect for each other, equals, because they are both flawed. Essentially Anushka is saying they should settle for each other and be happy, and he is saying that he would rather remain unmarried than settle. These are valid arguments from both sides, and honestly, Shahrukh was right to run away from the wedding if that is how he felt in that moment. And that is also a really interesting movie I would love to see, both learning the flaws in their arguments, Anushka to learn she didn’t have to settle (since Maddy offers to marry her) but she still wants Shahrukh, and Shahrukh to learn that there is nothing better out there than Anushka, she is what he wants. But, it’s not the movie we see. That’s kind of the end of any logical emotional journey for Anushka, and Shahrukh’s journey is interesting for a while and then takes a turn.

This and the wedding conversation are the high points for Anushka’s character

There’s something really interesting in there about filminess in Shahrukh’s story, he seduces Anushka by setting up an elaborate song number for her (which he describes including how much it all cost for his friend), just like a producer would for his star. There’s a thrown away line from his father about how Shahrukh doesn’t really love his mother, he just thinks he should because Amitabh in Deewar loved his mother. And his love for Katrina is pure filmi, a magical first meeting, an epic quest, and so on and so forth. Having that film party and making Kat into a film goddess must be on purpose, and is really the best part of the movie, seeing her life and how her fame both destroys and strengthens her (she finally breaks up with Abhay remembering that Shahrukh had told her how Meerut thinks she is an angel, that she can grow wings and fly if she wants). It’s the filminess that blinded him to what he had with Anushka, and blinded her to the reality of what he was. She fell for the fantasy with him and then demanded something real later. And he fell for the real but didn’t realize it because it was too real.

If only it weren’t buried in the space INSANITY!!!!!!! And the baby insanity. Honestly, that baby is just thrown in for no reason at all!!!! We learn that Anushka didn’t even know she was pregnant when she married him, and Shahrukh wanted to get back together with her without knowing about the baby, and then it never comes up again as any part of their motivation! Anushka is going to marry Madhavan, the baby isn’t even at the wedding let alone mentioned as part of their future plans, like “I want to marry him so my baby will have a father”. Shahrukh is ready to go off to space to prove his love to Anushka, never considers that being a present and loving father to their child might be a better thing to do. And Anushka never considers stopping him so her daughter can know her father! There is no plot purpose to the baby whatsoever, it is just thrown in because it makes one scene more dramatic (the moment when Shahrukh learns it is his baby) and then forgotten. Oh, but the space stuff is much much worse.

We spend an hour on space training, and it is suuuuuuuper boring. All that needs to happen is Anushka sets Shahrukh an impossible task and he fulfills it and proves his love. Most movies, they knock that kind of thing out in ten minutes. Remember Tezaab? Madhuri didn’t believe Anil was sorry for tricking her and told him to jump off a building? And then he did? And recovered and they were in love? And that was all done in, what, 30 seconds? It’s not even the real plot of the movie, you probably don’t even remember it. In terms of plot and narrative necessity, Shahrukh has to earn back Anushka’s love once he realizes he is truly in love with her, and any task would do to make that happen. Making it this space mission takes me way out of the film because I just can’t suspend disbelief to the point of believing the chief scientist would be allowed to send the father of her baby on her mission. Or that there is truly no one else who can do it. Or, most of all, that her love challenge is to stop the mission to prove her love. You can’t STOP A SPACE MISSION as part of a romantic game of chicken! She doesn’t have that authority, NO ONE has that authority!!!

This is how you do “struggling and earning back her love”! Jump off a building, 15 seconds of recovery, love song

In my head, this is the movie we should have had: Anushka is a brilliant scientist, but not for not-NASA, for the Indian Civil engineering department. Everything else happens exactly the same. Only instead of this space stupidity, Shahrukh’s challenge at the end is to fit into a small space and fix a leak in a dam or something like that. It’s not global, it’s not billions of dollars and thousands of people, it’s local and thousands of rupees and thousands of lives that could be saved. And most of all, it doesn’t take 45 minutes of training montages to get to that point.

My head-movie makes more sense largely because it removes the totally unrealistic view of space travel, unrealistic to the point of making the film un-enjoyable. But it also makes sense because the whole middle section with Kat (which is, again, the best part of the film and the strongest part of the film) is about understanding the reality of love and life. Shahrukh should run from reality and flaws in the first half, learn to appreciate that the real can be fantastical through his time with Kat (she can be an amazing woman that all of Meerut believes is an angel, and also throw up into a toilet), and then run back to reality. But instead the film takes him off to another fantasy, to a vision of America which is itself fantastical (including a ridiculous view of our red light districts), and then the not-NASA and Mars mission which is far more of a fantasy than anything Katrina was selling him. The message is gone.

They try to bring it back at the end. Anushka has a voice over tying it all together, saying the miracle was Shahrukh coming back after running from the wedding, the miracle was her forgiving him, and so on and so forth. Essentially, we should celebrate the moments when life is hard and we survive, when our better angels prevail, rather than dwelling on the bigger moments. But how can I believe in that message when the last third of the film is telling me to celebrate an over the top heroic mission to Mars which finally redeems Shahrukh in the eyes of his family?

Oh, one other thing, that Shahrukh redemption. Blurgh. The Shahrukh and Anushka relationship in this film is EXACTLY what I feared when I learned Aanand L Rai was making a movie with Shahrukh. Anushka is weirdly almost inhumanly heartless. Shahrukh has to “teach” her to love their baby (one of the few times the baby comes up again). And she is ready to send him to Mars to die because she hates him so much (not because she is a scientist, but because she hates him). Shahrukh of course tricks her and destroys her and so on, but then he feels really bad about it, so the film forgives him and makes him the wise and perfect character that has to “teach” Anushka a lesson. And finally, of course, Anushka turns her back on her much more compatible and kind and reliable and attractive romantic option to go running to the flawed hero who took her virginity. BLECH.

But Katrina’s character is great, gets to be kind and smart and destroyed by love, and then get over it and realize how awesome she is and throw Abhay out of her life and her heart. It’s just poor Anushka that gets shoved into the “An Indian Woman Loves Only Once” box.

She is awesome. Broken and drunk and sad and messy, and then getting back her own strength and throwing out her toxic man and getting on with her life. If only Anushka was allowed to do that!
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118 thoughts on “Zero Review (SPOILERS): TOO MUCH PLOT!!!!

  1. I am going to argue with you, but not until tomorrow, because I just home from the theater and I have guests coming for my solstice party in an hour. I was not disappointed, because I really needed a heavy dose of fantasy right now, and my definition of good fantasy is when I can lose myself in the story, no matter how illogical or unrealistic, because the actors and filmmakers made me believe in it for 160 minutes. Mission accomplished, and I will probably need another dose this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your review just convinced me not to watch Zero. I think it’ll just make me angry. I’m sure I’ll get around to watching it when it comes on Netlix/Amazon.

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    • As a Shahrukh fan, I feel very bad. But as a reviewer, I have probably done my job well.

      Have you seen Tanu Weds Manu Returns? If so, did the ending bother you? That’s probably the best way to gauge if this film will be enjoyable for you or not.

      On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 4:52 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I generally disliked Tanu Meets Manu Returns and also the ending did bother me. So I am assuming I should just wait for the movie to watch the movie?

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      • I am a Shahrukh fan. I also have cerebral palsy. I will not be seeing this film – this is too awful to think about. I’m surprised at the lead actors for consenting to play such horrible roles.

        What really gets me is the hint of Arushka’s accepting SRK’s suit – she has a disability and is in a wheelchair; therefore she accepts him because he’s the best she’ll ever be able to do. That is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. This is so despicable and horrifying that I can’t even begin to comprehend why anyone would find this a fantasy. It’s not. It’s a horror film, especially for those with disabilities. It’s degrading and dehumanizing.

        I sincerely hope this flops in the domestic Indian market and abroad.

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        • To be fair to the film, they do hint at an argument that Anushka should not be settling and neither should Shahrukh, that they should want more. And at the end, Anushka has a regularly-abled love interest. But they should make it a lot more clear, I think.

          On Sat, Dec 29, 2018 at 10:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I vote you skip the movie, wait for it streaming, and then just fastforward to all the Maddy scenes.

      On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 4:54 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I really didn’t like it. You have a hard time with Aanand L Rai, right? It’s got his irritating plot tricks in there, combined with a just generally weird narrative. And because of the Little Person character, you don’t even get a super sexy scene to make up for all that. Not that Little People can’t be sexy, just that Shahrukh was hampered in his performance.

          On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 4:57 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I think it depends. This is a big ambitious movie, made earnestly, whether you feel they missed the target or not. And it looks great. The VFX were in another league again from FAN. I think Mere Naam Tu, Bauua’s and Babita’s fight, and the zero G conversation alone are worth seeing it in a theater. But that’s me.

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          • One thing I’ve been thinking about is how the characterizations of SRK and Anushka leave the audience without the kind of romance you imagine yourself into. Except for the dream sequence at the very start, there are no images of SRK in his traditional sexy state, nor Anushka looking devastating. That leaves Kat, who definitely does but for a specific plot purpose, and Maddy. Maybe that’s why Maddy’s character is so low key? If he turned on the heat it would be hard for Bauua to stand up to him.

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    • She was really great in it. And it also served as kind of a refresh of her image. She isn’t just the sexy woman at the premiere parties, she is a real person inside who is trying her best and being used by people around her. Also, OH MAN if the break-up in this is read as a reference to Ranbir, it could completely change how he is treated versus her (the original response was kind of a “Kat foolishly lost Ranbir to another woman, loser!” instead of “Ranbir is a dog that walked out on his longtime girlfriend and broke her heart”)

      On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 4:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Of course we don’t know the details, but they were openly living together and she’s still single while he isn’t, so he is seen as having “won” the break-up. Because he got to have sex with his hot girlfriend and not marry her.

          Also, Abhay’s character in the film has the last name “Kapoor”. HA!

          On Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 5:00 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Wait a minute, forget Ranbir, I hope Alia watches the movie and starts to think a little about her boyfriend, Mr. You-make-me-feel-young-again-and-show-me-what-love-really-is-for-the-first-time

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          • In one of the very few interviews of Zero I watched,Katrina & Anushka was asked about marriage & babies respectively. Katrina replied that she had planned it once,didn’t happen,so she isn’t planning it anymore,will happen whenever it will.Things were that serious with Ranbir and the dog ditched her. And now he’s on to the next play thing & Katrina has to still see and interact with everyone and pretend everything is fine(she said ‘im fine’ is a lie she uses often). My heart broke a little for her but it also seems to have made her a little more relaxed & wacky.She’s so much fun in her interviews now.

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  3. The mixed reviews were driving me crazy, so I played hookie this afternoon and saw it. I’m with joyomama on this one. I agree with you, Margaret, that there is a hella bunch of plot, and that Maddy 1 in this is like Kangana 2 in TWMR. I took some pleasure in seeing Maddy get the same treatment. They made it clear that he was more affectionate towards A than passionate about her, though.

    I think I know why they put the baby in. I was fine with the space stuff–while noticing the absurdities, I didn’t care. But I wish they’d have ended the movie when the screen goes black after the Mars shot. They could have kept the line about “we know it all ends in a streak of smoke in the sky, but we love anyway,” and that would have been perfect.

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    • I kind of felt like they should have ended on that shot too. I wonder if that was the original plan and then they wimped out and decided the audience would demand closure?

      Why the baby? I must know your theory!!!! Is it just to educate the audience that neither dwarfism or cerebral palsy is necessarily inherited?

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      • I think it humanizes Bauua to fall so instantly in love with the baby. He’s afraid to ask, but has to ask if she has CP or dwarfism. He would love her anyway, but it shows how deep his fear and feelings of worthlessness go. It also adds to Aafia’s character. She carried on with her work, found a new man, and became a single mom. It adds a nice wrinkle that when B doesn’t leave, she’s afraid he is staying for the baby.

        I don’t think we’re meant to think she is heartless and doesn’t love her daughter. She tells B to go ahead and take her because she firmly believes B never follows through on commitments. If he won’t tie himself down in marriage, he definitely won’t tie himself down to being a single dad.

        The baby would also have worked better if they’d ended the movie at the Mars shot. We wouldn’t have known B’s fate, but wouldn’t feel too sad because A still has the baby, is reconciled with B, and B has the knowledge that he and A made magic in the form of new life.

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      • Because if a baby is present, everyone would root for the family to become complete again. Because honestly, why would these two people end up together? The character motivation isn’t there. He’s in love with her after one drunken night of sex? No he isn’t and we know that he runs away. Then suddenly she’s the most important thing in his life when he’s telling Babita about it. Why would she want to be with someone who dumped her TWICE. First he ghosted her after they had sex and even changed his number. Then he left her on their wedding day. She’s going to leave a decent seeming guy for him? But then again, they pointed out that the new guy doesn’t seem to give a damn about her either.

        Sticking a baby in the middle means that okay, these people should be together and leave their old problems.

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  4. Sadly I agree with your take on the film Margaret. It had me scratching my head for the most part, thinking why? WHY?
    The 3 leads are great, Katrina was a total surprise ( I have never forgiven her for JTHJ) and Shahrukh continues to confirm that he is a genius. He was a little too successful in making Bauaa really obnoxious.
    But there was too much nonsense in there. It’s like someone stole the movie at interval and skateboarded off in the wrong direction with it.

    Hopefully Indian audiences will pick up on good stuff I missed, or understand things that had me bamboozled, from small detail to big stuff (From: when he saw the baby, why did he start to run away with it? Why did she let him? For that matter, why did she pull out a gun and shoot when he turned up at the theatre? To: How does some guy with no education just turn up out of nowhere and become an astronaut?). I am ready to suspend disbelief if the logic is consistent within a film. I was more than happy to accept Taani didn’t recognise Raj was Suri in RNDBJ, because the logic within that universe worked. But in this film countless little things were inexplicable and it annoyed the heck out of me. In such an enormous industry, in an enormous country, why can’t they get a good script???

    Hopefully it will do okay, Shahrukh really needs a hit, but for myself I am very disappointed.

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    • What really bothers me is that there was no NEED for the inexplicable stuff! It’s doesn’t feel like the script had to be rewritten to remove it, it feels like they must have rewritten the script to add it in, like they could have started with a simple love triangle dealing with body issues and then loaded on a baby and NASA and this that and the other thing.

      So, maybe the problem is that there are too many screenwriters?

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  5. I was so baffled by this movie…the sheer ridiculousness of the whole thing…it could have worked if we believe in the core love story between SRK and Anushka…but an accomplished NASA scientist ready to sacrifice her entire life’s work and the future of humanity over one good for nothing guy…really??

    What I want to know is how can so many smart people not realize the absurdity of this movie? Was the whole Mars thing forced in by SRK coz he wanted to play a larger-than-life hero? Do the people involved really think they made a good movie? Did they not show the first cut to focus groups? How can this be the finished product they decide to promote and release? So many questions…

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    • One thing I noticed, reviewers always say “lost the way in the second half”. But in this case it REALLY REALLY lost the way in the second half!!!! Like, just makes nooooo sense! Maybe the problem is they got feedback that the ending was confusing and instead of cutting it down, they added on? Put on tag after tag and scene after scene and it just got more confusing instead of less?

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  6. I’m with you. I just saw it too and it’s bad. The character motivations make ZERO sense. Actually nothing in this movie makes any sense.
    But I disagree with one thing. I detested the Katrina portions of the movie. They should not have been there at all. They are like a different movie and exist for no reason. Even SRK’s interest in her is not understandable and you never for a moment think she is a real contender for his heart. This movie should have concentrated on Baauu and Afiya and they instead made us go on that pointless detour to Bollywood. Everything in that portion stunk. Everything. The Salman song sucked, the cameos sucked, the poor little rich girl act was stereotypical and boring. I was looking at my watch so much in that entire portion and was so glad when it ended.
    The space stuff is absurd. Who would tell their ex to take their daughter and leave? Who would send off someone to Mars for 15 years to prove he’s not a flake and doesn’t run away? They made her so unlikeable that Bauaa running away from her would have made more sense. Who wouldn’t want to get away from someone so mean-spirited and selfish? Even Bauaa’s selfishness doesn’t compare.
    The craziest part is that after putting us through hours of nonsense hoping for the two lovers to reunite, there is not even a pay-off scene at the end where they reunite. Instead they are in different parts of the world and he lands alone in his space capsule? Why would any writer think this is an appropriate ending?
    How can anyone in this team that this story makes sense? The biggest sin is that it’s really really boring. As soon as they get out of Meerut, there is no reason to watch it anymore. Only those small town portions were good.

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    • One more thing – SRK is the only good thing in this movie. I don’t know what’s going on but the man deserves to be part of better products. It’s a shame that he wasted time on such a sham. I don’t know which movie makes me more mad- this one or Dilwale. I think it would have to be this one.
      I found Anushka totally annoying. The acting tics were too obvious and the mumbling is hard to understand. Katrina was good in a portion that should not have existed at all. But I’m not impressed with her like others. It’s just that she’s usually so bad that people are wowed. Any other actress doing this would be regular and routine but since it’s the worst actress in the world acting well for the first time, people are amazed.

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      • I think I like Dilwale a lot more. That one had lot of filler scenes and bad bits, but the overall thrust of the film made sense. And it was a lot more fun and a lot easier to make. This sucked up over a year and a lot of money, and not just individual pieces but the entire plot of the film failed.

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        • Me too simply because you don’t have high expectations from Dilwale anyway. Rohit Shetty also wraps up movies in 6 months and releases them.

          Zero is too ambitious without having a foundation. It completely derails after the intermission because the story just isn’t there. Why was so much time wasted in those astronaut preparation scenes? Why the heck did they have to send him to Mars when the Moon would have sufficed and they could have avoided that absurd 15 year thing? All these talented people came together and didn’t realize how this was shaping up?

          This is an exercise in overindulgence. It could have been partly saved just through the editing. Grab those scissors and cut out 40-50 minutes! A quick fast-paced film, even if it’s superficial, might end up being entertaining. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just keep the audience watching and engaged.

          The biggest problem for me was not that the script doesn’t make sense. The biggest issue is that it’s just long and boring. You lose interest because everything just goes on and on.

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          • That sequence between saying good-bye to Kat and entering the astronaut program is the most fast-paced and surprising of the film, and you are right, it works! The twists are ridiculous and I lose track of the plot, but I am still entertained because it is all coming so fast and furious. It’s when it slows down after that, the long training period and multiple confrontations and conversations, that’s when I lose interest.

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          • They totally could cut most of the training montage and not lose anything. However, it made me chuckle too. I expected “Eye of the Tiger” to break out. I rhink that section is where Shah Rukh’s ego and love of tech was overinsulged by Rai. Or Rai could be equally enamored of that stuff too, and wanted to put a high tech montage into the movie.

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          • The training montage wasn’t just a time kill, I think it also lead to part of that unbalancing of the story. I kind of lost track of when Shahrukh started doing this for himself versus for Anushka.

            On Sat, Dec 22, 2018 at 4:23 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • And the small town portions are where Aanand L Rai shines! That’s what got him noticed, that’s his USP. Which doesn’t mean necessarily that he can’t do anything else, but shouldn’t someone involved have pointed out that he does best when he stays in the milieu he knows? It’s not like this is new news.

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  7. So the whole point of making SRK a dwarf was to excuse his obnoxious behavior towards Anushka’s character? I remember our discussions when the trailer had come out and we had speculated the small-size-fitting-into-space-capsule idea. That’s not the case? I also appreciate the effort it would have taken you to write this review of your favorite star.

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    • The small-size-fitting-into-space-capsule idea is still there, but it isn’t hit super hard. It is more about establishing that he works hard and is naturally talented as an astronaut than the size. But the idea of his lifetime of being dismissed and abused leading to a protective skin of aggression and mockery of others, that is hit very hard and done fairly well.

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      • I also don’t like the idea that someone as accomplished as a scientist at NASA and discoverer of water on a different planet is treated as match for someome who uses his special condition as an excuse to behave badly. So inspite of everything she achieves,she’s still defined by her condition while despite everything he is,he is excused because of his condition? I’m all for flawed individuals but these kind of patriarchal & regressive characterisations makes my blood boil. Especially for a film this mainstream that’s expected to have a wide reach.

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        • That’s an interesting point, Shahrukh’s character uses his condition as an excuse for everything, Anushka never excuses it and just keeps going. Although, it’s also important that Shahrukh was growing up in Meerut and Anushka in America, and Anushka’s condition is easier to see as an “illness” and bring on sympathy, while Shahrukh’s is more likely to get him teasing and laughter.

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          • He also partly left Anushka because she laughed at him when he told her Babita kissed him. He felt humiliated by her the same way the world makes fun of him.

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          • And again, I am back to how amazing that one scene was. I supported his character in that moment. And now that I think about it, one of the flaws of the film is that his decision to leave the wedding is retroactively turned into a “sin”. He feels guilty, Anushka feels angry, the whole ending is about how he is a coward that runs away. But no! The woman he was about to marry had just explained that she wants to marry him because she thinks he is as flawed as she is, that he should marry her because no other woman would want him. It made complete sense for him to run away after that. He should have come back to her saying he was sorry he hurt her, and sorry they weren’t married because he loves her, but not accepting some terrible guilt for walking away on a wedding that, in that moment, he did not want and she didn’t seem to want much either. She never used the words “I love you” in that conversation, just logic for way this marriage made sense.

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          • Yes, that’s exactly why the love story doesn’t make sense. He was wrong in ghosting her and changing his number after they had sex. But he was completely right in leave the wedding. Anushka didn’t tell him that she loved him and she laughed at him implying that he’s not good enough to be kissed by Babita. He didn’t even run away!! He went to her and honestly explained the situation that he doesn’t want to get married and is not interested in building a nest and that the wedding day had only arrived because he was forced into it. He didn’t run away like a coward. He bravely faced her and explained the situation.
            A few months later, he returns and tells her he’s sorry and wants to be with her and it’s done before he even knows about any baby.

            How is it a sin that needs to be punished? Anushka is sending him off into space as if he’s another chimp!! She is so unlikable that you don’t even want him with her.

            If they wanted to go the punishment route, he needed to do something worse. It would have been better if he cheated on Anushka for real with another woman. I wish they chucked out that BW star thing completely. Would have been better if it was just a pretty girl from the neighborhood and it’s a big blow for Anushka not only because he cheated but that he wanted the normal bodied girl over her. The Babita thing was totally stupid because nothing happened and he wasn’t even with her. The conflict is not big enough to warrant anything that comes after.

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          • I was so excited at the interval, because of that scene. I thought for once it would be a mature love story that acknowledges he was right to run from the wedding and shows how they both change and come back together. Like Love Aaj Kal (to pick an example at random) which dealt with the tricky way that sometimes love isn’t enough, it’s also about timing and self-knowledge and so on.

            I liked the Babita section partly because I felt like it was doing that work. Showing how Shahrukh’s character was growing and changing into a person who was ready for marriage, and marriage to Anushka. But then Anushka’s character didn’t get the same journey, and in fact the film seemed to be saying that she should stand in one place and wait for Shahrukh to come back to her, instead of realizing she is a desirable woman that could have many men, not just the first man to look at her without pity, and deciding she wants Shahrukh after all. It’s positioned as her being “mad” at him, and him being “afraid”, not that they were both going into the wedding for the wrong reasons and can come together more honestly now.

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          • So interesting how our interpretations are so different. I took B and A’s final talk when he is in the capsule to be both of them acknowledging that they messed up around the time of the wedding. A asking B if he would have stayed had she asked him not to run is her telling him that she knows she hurt him too. And it’s wonderfully ambiguous when he shakes his head no. Is he being honest or trying to keep her from feeling worse, especially if he doesn’t make it back. Again, another reason it would have been a better movie had they ended it just after the rocket launch.

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    • Ha! I first read this thinking you were using letters to indicate characters, “A” and “B”, and then realized it was their actual initials.

      I don’t think it was said directly, but her speech saying he was the first/only person to see her as a person seemed to indicate it to me. And everyone was acting that way, from the marriage broker to Shahrukh’s parents to Anushka’s parents. Really this is getting at a larger issue for me with Anushka’s character, in some ways she is supposed to be a modern American scientist and in others a traditional Indian girl. For instance, why was her picture with the marriage broker to begin with? that is never answered, did she send it in or did her parents? Why would they use an Indian marriage broker instead of letting her be single or trusting that someone she met through regular life (like Madhavan) would marry her? Or just using an American marriage broker? And then at the wedding, her family was uncomfortable with Shahrukh’s height, but nothing else, the idea of her marrying someone she just met and so on and so forth was fine. And her relationship with Madhavan certainly never seemed sexual, he barely touched her, which is odd for an American couple that are in love and engaged, but would be in keeping for an Indian woman (not Indian American, but Indian-Indian)

      Of course all these things can live together, a famous successful American scientist can also want an arranged marriage, and so on and so forth, it bothers me though that the film doesn’t fully explain all these things as though they don’t think it is worth it. And if they don’t explain, I am left to assume that Anushka is meant to be read as a traditional good Indian girl in all ways (including saving her virginity for one special man).

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      • I can see why having her photo at the broker with no explanation would bug you. I just took it as something that needed to happen for the plot and didn’t think of it again. Her family is supportive of her love marriage–the marriage to Bauua isn’t arranged as such. B’s dad just makes a assumption and neither A nor B corrects him.

        I think A isn’t meant to be a type. She’s meant to be a unique personality, as much as the other 2 main characters.

        I didn’t get the feeling that A is a virgin. She could’ve had sex with people who nevertheless couldn’t see past her disability. She seemed quite casual about it, and we learn she was fine with him ghosting. Not thrilled about it, but not devastated.

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        • Wasn’t an issue for me either. I just figured maybe she gave her pic herself because she wanted to get married and preferred an Indian guy. Or her parents passed it along thinking that she won’t be able to find anyone herself.
          I didn’t think she was a virgin either. She was too casual about the whole thing to have been a virgin. Especially with her condition, she would have been much more nervous if this was the first time just based on how they would manage it since her handicap changes a lot of things. She also kissed him first. She went and had the baby too without any drama. She didn’t even bother to inform him about it.

          Liked by 2 people

  8. Popping in again with some thoughts. I am still crazy busy, and plan to see it again. My thoughts:

    1) Why is everyone insisting that it “make sense”? It’s a fantasy. If the narration had begun with “once upon a time…” and SRK was playing a hobbit or and Anushka was a Disney princess, and Katrina was a messed-up fairy godmother, maybe the magical realism would be more “believable”. But for me, it was pure fantasy from the time I saw the trailers. The only realistic part was the cynical comment by the reality show producer about having a dwarf on the show would boost ratings (read Jennifer Pozner’s Reality Bites for a good behind-the-scenes look at “reality TV”).

    But everything else was as imaginary as Baahubali, but without the fanciful costuming and settings.

    2) I agree that there are too many stories, and they don’t connect. Maybe Rai should have done what the Coen brothers just did, make a movie with short stories connected by a common theme. But I actually enjoyed each story, though I would have liked some of them fleshed out more and some less.

    3) The performances were beyond satisfying. To see Katrina in such a good, layered mature role was wonderful. Anushka continues to show why she will be a force to be reckoned with for decades. Shahrukh was at peak form, in dialog delivery, physical energy, and the nuances of his facial expressions. Even Maddy, in that small part, was beautiful. They could have just cast some random actor as the fiance, but Maddy delivered exactly the right combination of nerdiness and empathy — the wedding scene, when he is just looking at her when she is on the phone!

    4) Some people are saying this is SRK’s worst movie. I don’t think it even makes the bottom half. Maybe that’s another discussion. I have my own personal ranking of his films, This one falls somewhere in the top 20, around Happy New Year. I wish it had more good songs, but Chak De had hardly any, so that’s not a deal killer. I will have to mull that over, after I see it again.

    All in all, the wildly mixed reviews mean this is a see-it-for yourself situation,

    Oops, that wasn’t short at all. But that is all for today!

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    • 1.For me at least, the “make sense” frustration isn’t so much with realism as it is with the story having internal logic and cohesion. Well, and also that the realism of the space section special effects kind of made the illogic of that section stand out more? If it had been like Jaan-E-Mann, which also had a silly illogical space section, but filmed in such a way that it felt fantastical an fairy tale like instead of strictly real, then I could have handled it better.

      2. The movie I kept thinking of was Forrest Gump. Only the thing with that movie was that it was structured in such a way that you know it was a series of stories connected just by the main character, whereas the first half of this film was strictly telling one story that was almost equally about the two of them, and then the second half started jumping all over. If somehow the balance of the first half being all one story and the second half being multiple had been balanced better, I think it would have worked better. Maybe made each of the stories of the second half shorter? Katrina, Shahrukh and Anushka rediscovering each other, astronaut training, and Shahrukh’s challenge to Anushka had all felt like little short stories unrelated to each other, maybe it would have been better.

      3. Agree, the performances were all excellent.

      4. Okay, this is what interests me the most in your comment! JHMS, it was this clear line of loving it or hating it and not many people put it in between. But for you, this would be an in between one? You liked it, you think it is good, but it’s not your immediate favorite movie or immediately in his top ten?

      On Sat, Dec 22, 2018 at 12:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  9. Comments in no particular order (numbered only for ease of reference)

    1. I had just watched the film No one killed Jessica on Netflix last week. I instantly recognized the Zero best-friend dude as being the same actor that played the killer that killed Jessica. Very distinctive face. For a BW character actor, his level of acting is just right, if not slightly subdued. Maybe the blond dye job gag didn’t quite land as hard as it could have because he isn’t outlandish with his comedy. He was pitch perfect with his realism as the entitled insecure clueless party guy assassin in NOKJ.

    2. Why does the final third of the movie even exist? I’m guessing that SRK wanted an Anand L Rai film to exercise his character actor skills (and become associated with the new wave of filmmakers instead of the baggage of the 90s filmmakers) as well as to use as an audition reel for Red Chillies VFX. Fan was this already, but Zero takes it to the next level. Animal VFX? Let’s throw in a gorilla! Space VFX? Let’s make Anushka a space scientist, she can utilize both a gorilla and a dwarf interchangeably in space! So a reasonably straightforward almost ADHM-like storyline was extended and convoluted in order to
    exercise new varieties of VFX.

    3. Why does Anushka get saddled with these awkward implausible endings? Dancing Cancer in ADHM? In a love triangle with a space alien and a missing scientist(?) in PK? Is she BW’s go-to gal for wierd endings?

    4. My first thought after watching this movie? Zero::SRK = PK::Aamir = Moonraker::JamesBond … The actor’s or character’s “WTH did I just watch?” movie.

    5. Katrina was good in this, (not fantastic, many actresses would have done a better job, kalki or kangana would have nailed this, but katrina was def good), but she was also good in Rajneeti and Sarkar and the movie w/ Imraan Khan and the Ranbir slapstick thing. My guess is, she’s better if she actually has to act a character out, but not as good as a leading lady, since as a heroine you just have to be a variety of herself. But given her looks and her perceived lack of acting talent, she’s usually just asked to perform as herself with slight variations. It can be harder to do this because the boundaries and goals are not as clear for the actor. Most of her roles don’t give her enough to sink her teeth into.

    6. My biggest problem with this movie? Right script, wrong theme! Anushka is a narcissistic psychopath, yet the movie plays as a romantic love story. Wrong theme guys. This movie, with the exact same script, would have worked far better as either a black comedy (comedy noire) ala Andhadhun but more emphasis on comedy macabre, or as a marvel-esque superhero (DwarfMan!) with Anushka as a straight-up villain and Katrina as “the one that got away” love interest.
    A. Comedy noire. A random gun that is shot at the lover and then quickly forgotten about. (That gun was the randomest thing, and the briefest cameo, in the whole movie!) A baby borne to the lovers out of wedlock but then only mentioned as an emotional plot device. A gorilla! … who is all trained and certified by NRSA to carry out a journey to space… until he’d rather be with his family? Sitting at NRSA command central to launch a space ship… while decked out in full Indian wedding regalia? This is the stuff of screwball comedies! Or Woody Allen-esque sendups of screwball comedies. Now add in a bereft, vengeful, and/or confused jilted lover who sends her lover in a comatose state to Mars for 15 freaking years … to challenge him to prove that he can stick to a commitment? Isn’t this the stuff of every Pedro Almodovar movie ever? Or, stateside, Wes Anderson, anyone? Possibly even Charlie Kaufman? Or the lyrics to a Smiths song? (1980s British new wave band that wrote love songs like “Girlfriend in a Coma”). What these auteurs do is utilize the fantastical and the absurd to illustrate the pathos of existence and uncover the deeper hidden truths of life. And they do that in part by making it clear that the auteur himself realizes the absurdity of his own plot points, while simultaneously portraying those fantastical plot points as normal. If Anushkas final monologue (or series of questions) to SRK had been underscored with more pathos and/or irony, maybe with a simple change in background score, or slight lighting/filming changes, wouldn’t that ending have held so much more meaning, and made the whole movie more cohesive? Unf BW doesn’t really make self-aware films, outside of the arthouse/parallel or slapstick comedy realms (maybe Dirty Picture or Aiyyaa are exceptions), wouldn’t Zero have been so much better if it were?
    * One thing that was *very* self aware about this movie was to cast Katrina in her role, both as a sendup/deconstruction of her perfect-poised-girl image, and as a mockery/commentary on her ranbir relationship. In one interview ARai said they had Katrina in mind for the film (maybe even cast in the role) well before they had SRK in mind.
    B. Superhero. What’s brilliant about this film is that, like most marvel and dc films, in the “origins story” film, they simultaneously give us the story of how one misguided person evolved into a superhero, and the backstory on how another promising person (maybe even someone the superhero knew) devolved into becoming the villain and archrival. The movie Black Panther did this really well, by giving voice to the PoVs of both the villain and the hero, and spending equal time & depth on both stories, while simultaneously taking a stand re which side the movie supports. This movie does a *wonderful* job of showing us, simultaneously, how Bauua evolved from Zero to Hero, and how Aifaa devolved from Hero to Zero. Problem is, this movie has no idea that she devolved into a villain… You’d think her sending the lover that jilted her into space in a comatose state for the next 15 years to a planet no one has traveled to before – just to see if he can finally keep a commitment – would make that obvious. Cartoon unhinged supervillain archrival, anyone? Telling zero to take the baby if that is his only motivation for returning – even if stated symbolically or rhetorically – is something I only imagine a villain saying. Instead, the movie actually sides with her, as though her jilting her own fiance was her taking the moral high ground, and her crying while sending him off to space redeems her, whereas nothing would have redeemed her more than calling off the mission. Added bonus… Katrina as the love interest kicks zero out (upon his request) but then also kicks her own love interest out of her heart and life… Thus leaving the door open, in true superhero-movie style, for a sequel in which the origins story love interest is still a possibility. 🙂

    7. So what happened here? Could it be that a well-cinematically-versed Himanshu wanted to evolve the Anand Rai style of screenplay into the Almodovar/Anderson territory? Honestly imo it’s a logical next step. Could it then be that Rai wanted to make a superhero film, and srk wanted to show off his vfx in a superhero realm with a realistic looking template (as opposed to Baahubali comic-book style template)? Also a logical next step for Bollywood, budgets notwithstanding. Could it be that as the film and screenplay evolved that they couldn’t extricate themselves from their original leanings? It would be great to get a Bonfire of the Vanities style documentary on the conception and evolution of this film.

    8. SRK was great in this movie. Not his best, I’d give it 8/10, mostly because sometimes his character evolution was illustrated too much by plot points and not enough by his acting. There is internalized acting, and then there is non-existent acting, and sometimes I felt like both the external and internal characterization were missing. Maybe if I rewatch it I’ll feel differently. Otoh the physicality of his acting was superb, and I don’t mean the dwarfism, I just mean the way he acted and reacted with his whole body in just about every scene. It almost felt choreographed or danced. In general Zero would be worth a rewatch just to rewatch SRKs performance, it was that good.

    9. Salman was so charming in this. Even his dance moves were. Even his “not-dancing” was. Charisma in spades. And looking only half as old as SRK.

    10. If you are going to watch this movie, watch it on the big screen, or don’t watch it at all. I say this because the VFX work is very professional and seemless on the cinema screen. But when I’ve seen snippets on TV since then (as part of weekend BW roundup shows), the green screen work becomes super obvious (prob because of HD TV plus the close proximity of the tv screen vs movie screen), with SRK looking superimposed on the screen.

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    • THANK YOU! I kept trying to think of what this movie reminded me of — the feeling it gave me, not the plot — and it was Wes Anderson’s “Moonlight Kingdom”, which I loved. Yes, “Zero” is very Wes Anderson. In my own very uninformed opinion, that is something that Indian film could easily do. After all, how often do people dismiss it as unrealistic, anyway?

      I know exactly what scene took my mind to Wes Anderson, too. When they first introduce Bauua’s trick with the stars. At that point, I just let go and went with it was sheer fantasy, wrapped around a core of humanity.

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    • Thank you! I love in depth comments. Let me see if I can reply to every point:

      1. Did you see Thugs? He was also in that, playing a similar humorous sidekick character. But it was Raees that really blew me away, he plays Shahrukh’s best friend in that, but with a depth to it that almost makes their relationship more meaningful than what he has with Mahira. I had no idea he had been acting long enough to be in NOKJ. He has definitely broken through now, become the go-to friend role guy.

      2. Yes!!!!! I can understand the desire for this open ending, for Shahrukh to go off and do something dangerous to prove his love, but there was no need to make it so over the top and special effects full.

      3. At least this time she didn’t have to do something weird with her hair, small blessings.

      4. Yes. Only with PK, there was a gloss of some kind of gentle social message, so the critics and audiences gave it a pass. I truly think if this film had been exactly the same but with an explicit feminist message or animal cruelty message or something else that no one would dare object to, it could have skated by much better in the reviews.

      5. Absolutely agree!!!! That’s why Anushka keeps getting these weird parts, I think, because people don’t see her as “just” the pretty heroine. I noticed it particularly in this movie, because Shahrukh is first attracted to her photo and I haven’t seen a “Anushka is stunningly beuatiful at first sight” kind of thing before. It’s usually her personality that attracts the hero in her movies, giving her a wider range of heroines to play. While poor Kat is more likely to be minimized to pretty girl-love at first sight position.

      6. Really this comment is two points, first that Anushka is clearly in the wrong and it is ridiculous for the film to position her as the wronged party. Which I agree with, and also I think might be a consistent issue with Rai? His heroines are this combination of terrible people who do terrible things, and then turn around and end up with the hero anyway just because the script says they should be in love with him. No, scratch that, depending on the film it might be either party in the romance that does something terrible. He seems to have a “love is pain and hurting each other” feeling.

      But second is that the film didn’t embrace the fantasy. That’s what I was saying in my comment to Joyomama, for me it would have worked better if it had been clearly fantastical. But everything from the realism of the special effects to the costuming of the characters was telling me that this should be considered a “real” story. Shaandar, or Jaan-E-Mann, come to mind right away as movies that embraced the fantasy, told the audience through the visual style that this should be considered a little bit crazy and a little bit fantasy. So either I am left to critique the first half (which I thought was really great) for being too grounded, for having Shahrukh talk about the cost of that fantasy song and show Katrina vomiting, or the second half when he goes to space for being too fantastical. There is no balance, and no visual clues for the audience as to whether this is intended as fantasy or reality.

      7. I am curious as well! At what point did they add on the space story? Was that always there, or did it evolve into something bigger? The decision to make Shahrukh’s best friend blind in one eye and always carrying a flashlight, where did that come from? did they start with the love triangle, or with the sacrifice at the end? What was the emotional starting point for the story and the characters?

      8. Agree. Especially knowing that his body was CGI’d, so he did all of this performance to such perfection that even after modifying the image, we were still able to appreciate it.

      9. He was charming! Funny how the film treated the film industry. It stayed focus on this one woman who was spiraling out of control. It didn’t seem to be making a statement that all film stars are cruel or damaged or anything, it was just saying that Katrina was broken-hearted and sad and lonely. But Salman was nice and charming, and the other women at the party seemed pleasant and happy.

      10. Hadn’t noticed that, thanks for the tip!

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    • This is a brilliant post and I would have loved your version of Zero. A Wes Anderson type movie or superhero origins would have been amazing especially with Anushka as the villain. They had somewhat of a feel of it but couldn’t go all the way.

      Anushka’s character growth towards villainess was already there. A woman who has the audacity to tell Bauua to take his daughter and leave. The one who is happily sending a man to Mars as a replacement for a chimp and hoping the rocket will crash! Then running away from her own wedding and telling Bauaa she will wait for him to come back. Imagine that being done with an evil glint in her eyes. It would be amazing to see the love/hate relationship in the future with Bauaa as the superhero and her as the villainess. And Katrina as the impossible good girl and possible love interest.

      I don’t know. I feel like something is one day going to come together for SRK correctly after all these experiments. He’s lurching towards it. Nobody else is even trying. For that alone, I have immense pride in him. He will get there sooner or later.

      Only one disagreement. Detested the Salman/SRK song and Salman came across as lazy and uninvolved as always. And bloated. Very bloated. I would have loved for that song to be thrown into the trash heap. Easily my least liked part of the movie along with the actress cameos.

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  10. Wow, we had such different reactions to this movie! I really enjoyed it. My friend who came with me, who is newer to Indian films than I am, also enjoyed it, though somewhat less than I did because she was more bothered by some of the plot over the topness. I didn’t have a passionate reaction to this film, but as a big, ambitious holiday movie worth seeing in a theater it was satisfying.

    I read the love story and the Aafia character very differently than you did. She doesn’t seem traditional at all to me, and she doesn’t seem stuck in a waiting role, nor does she seem diminished by loving someone less educated. To me the point of their connection is – similar to JHMS – the way they challenge and push each other, and the spark and humor they find when they’re together. She doesn’t have that with any other character in the film. She starts out completely dismissive of him, and he humiliates her (the pen scene), but he woos her the way he would woo a romantic filmi heroine, not like a proper intellectual scientist whose disability has to be carefully respected (that’s the vibe when she’s with Maddy, and seems more likely what she would have run into in her normal life). I saw her as swept off her feet a bit by the romance, and responding to his irreverence and humor, but still seeing herself as superior if it weren’t for her condition – that comes through in the wedding confrontation, she sees her education and work as superior to what he could offer if they both weren’t perceived as damaged goods by other people, which makes them a good enough match for each other.

    Bauaa does run away like a coward, because he lets the wedding go ahead then ditches her on the wedding day. It’s good he at least tells her, but it doesn’t take away the fact that he set her up for another public humiliation, after she had defended him to her family and accepted a future with him. I agree he grows a lot during the Babita section. I also loved that part of the movie, and I thought Kat was great. (Is no one talking about the fact that he gets kissed by both of them in this movie?) In the trailers Kat looked like a basket case and I was worried her character was going to be a lost woman, but she gets to be strong, conniving, generous, and good, all at the same time, which was unexpected. I loved her ending with Abhay, again very satisfying, and great line.

    OK, so I will give you the gun (what?!!) and the ape and the baby. Though I will also remind you that you are on record defending the gun under the wig in “Pump Up the Bhangra”/Ram Jaane as all in good fun :). The baby definitely got the shortest shrift of any character, even accepting Procrastinatrix’s plot reasons for why she’s there, which do make sense in the first moment we meet her. As for the ape, I went a little misty eyed at the end credit for “Eli, the last working chimp in Hollywood”, but that still doesn’t explain why it was necessary for the ape to be an actual character with its own emotional motivations. Too much plot in his case, for sure.

    When Bauaa comes back, Aafia is furious with him and has moved on with her life. I see your point that her fury in this moment is inconsistent with the speech she gave him about settling on their wedding day. But to me that speech sounded like a rationalization, and the fury felt more real. To me, the second half is about both of them truly facing their incompleteness, all the feelings of sadness and anger and humiliation that they’ve been hiding their whole lives, and in facing them coming together. Aafia is furious because he rejected her for being wheelchair-bound, the very thing she has fought against and overcome in every other area of her life, and worse after she thought he saw her for her true self. Bauaa has been pushing away rejection his whole life by pre-empting it, making the joke himself before anyone else can, being ten times as confident as someone taller, and avoiding any committed relationship that could make him face up to his own fears of inadequacy (for example, provoking Babita into kicking him out). This is where Procrastinatrix is dead on, that scene where he asks about his daughter is key – he has to admit that he cares if she’s normal, and that he wants her to be normal, not like him. That’s the turning point where he stops trying to brag and charm his way through, and he starts trying to atone with Aafia for hurting her, and facing his own fears and limitations instead of running from them. This is why the training montage is so long. It starts out kind of fun, then each step gets harder and more torturous. He is exposing himself for the uneducated, too small man by putting himself through a trial at which he is so unlikely to succeed, and it is increasingly painful and arduous physically, which serves both as a display of self-punishment for Aafia and, because he stays, proof that he has changed. Aafia sees this for what it is, sees how he keeps going through adversity and understands it on a level that the “normal” people studying him don’t, and it gets past her defensive anger, though she doesn’t admit it until it’s too late. I found the challenge between them believable emotionally because he knows that her marrying Maddy would be settling for a conventional match when her feelings are so much stronger for him, and she knows that he has never followed through with any real commitment in his life. (Hanging a billion dollar project on it, OK, yes, but if you read the history of space travel there have been plenty of crazy shenanigans.)

    I wasn’t bothered by the idea of him as a non-astronaut traveling to Mars when he was replacing an ape, which doesn’t speak to a very complex mission. The 15-year time lapse before his return did seem excessive, especially now that I see the journey to Mars takes less than a year. (How would he even eat for that long?) But the ending, that is pure Gravity. Do you remember there was a time after Gravity came out that SRK ended up talking in a bunch of interviews about whether he would ever do a supporting turn like George Clooney’s to set up a big star vehicle like that for an actress? Gravity clearly made a big impression on the industry folks. Better if the 15 years had been 2 or 3 maybe, but the ending left me with a smile. They took that great moment at the end and made it their own, very Bauaa Singh.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Me too, your take was different in interesting ways! It would be so fun to discuss, and I wonder very much what it will be like to watch knowing what is coming. (For me, that’s almost certainly whenever it’s streaming – getting away for even one night out involves a lot of logistical planning!)

        Liked by 1 person

          • But then half of us would be saying snarky mean things and the other half would get their feelings hurt! I don’t want to hurt feelings 😦

            On Thu, Jan 3, 2019 at 11:23 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Hmmm. Could be an interesting experiment. I think if everyone agrees up front to agree to disagree, and no ad hominems (or ad feminam as is usually the case in our conversations), we’d have fun!

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          • I think it would be fun, too. Promise not to get my feelings hurt! I enjoyed this one but I’m not deeply invested in it, doesn’t feel personal.

            Liked by 1 person

    • I love the gun under the wig in Pump Up the Bhangra! But that whole movie is ridiculous. The gun stands out here because the movie moves between ridiculous and sincere. and that is what bothers me, the whole film goes between serious conversations between characters and an ape who will miss his family if he goes to space. There’s no balance.

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      • It’s so interesting, I feel like with JHMS I was the one bothered by the points of plot implausibility and you were the one telling me to focus on the emotional journey of the characters, and here it’s reversed. My disagreement with your read of the romance is that it’s relying too much on trying to fit templates onto this movie, either traditional romance or the issues you had with TWM and TWMR. But Zero I think is more a story of Bauua and Aafia each facing up to their own fears of inadequacy, sometimes through cruelty to the other person, but ultimately the triumph is over the internal conflict inside each one that allows them to come together and accept the other as they have finally accepted themselves.

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        • I do have a bit of human doubt, it took my second watching to fully appreciate JHMS because it was so internal and complicated and unique. But so far I am still like 85% sure that the things I saw and didn’t like in Zero I will still see and not like in later viewings. For one thing, with JHMS I didn’t much like it on the first watch but still liked it enough that I felt I could recommend it to a friend and take her with me. With this one, I don’t feel comfortable bringing any of my friends with me for a second watch.

          On Sun, Dec 23, 2018 at 10:58 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I was thinking about this one compared to Chennai Express. The SRK characters have a similar man-child persona, but to me Zero does a better job of showing Bauua growing and accepting adult responsibility for the impact of his actions. By the end of the Babita episode, he shows enough self-awareness (forcing her to throw him out so he will go back and face the life he ran out on) that I can accept the space training as an intentional sacrifice to atone and maybe win back Anushka, confirmed during their confrontations in the space center. In Chennai Express, I never saw that self-awareness, so the fight – which serves a similar redemptive purpose for the character – comes off more as macho honor posturing, confirmed by the father accepting him by saying “you’re like us.”

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    • I haven’t read all the comments and was in the process of drafting a defence for Aafiya and then saw your post. I don’t think I could have put it better.
      I didn’t have a problem with the ape characteer plot line. I liked that they gave it a story and plausible and emotional reason for dropping out rather than just making it sick or scared or , worse, incompentent.
      Also Anushka’s an animal-lover so maybe she got the makers to show that they have feelings and emotions and attachments too.

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      • The above reply was to Emily.
        Someone else said that Aaafiya doesn’t love the baby – She could have gotten rid of it, she didn’t – He (Bauua) does not make her love her, she does love\care for her already. In the montage song (Ann Bann teri meri) he’s shown playing with the baby. Aafiya enters and is shown smiling ät her and doing the “hello baby”face and then she notices the stuffed toy monkey in NCAR uniform near the window and sees Bauua leaving with his hoodie. The rest of her comments were, to me, an angry \ emotion hurt\ pride hurt reaction.
        I think someone else also descibed Aafiya as narcissistic- that could also derive from being looked down all her life and Now that that she’s where she is, she feels entitled to have that pride.
        PS – Anushka fan so had to defend the character she’s playing in a movie..dont get me started on Sejal 🙂

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        • Oh yeah I got a possible explanation for the gun.several actually she’s differently-abled woman, Indian, scientist working on an American project to send humans to Mars. Remember the Robert Zemeckis- Jodi Foster movie ‘Contact’? an example for the last one. The rest one can make their own assumptions.

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          • I feel like the gun was a way to force Shah Rukh to get the baby in his arms, and there do seem like simpler ways to do that. But I agree her reaction in that moment was more anger and certainty that he would never actually run away with something requiring so much commitment as a baby.

            What I don’t really understand is why Anushka ends up getting so much of the criticism for these unusual roles she’s cast in. I saw the reviews so far, if they criticize any performances, it’s always hers. She got so much flak for JHMS, too. What is it about her that she ends up as the punching bag? But it doesn’t seem to affect her getting juicy roles?

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  11. https://www.filmcompanion.in/zero-review-baradwaj-rangan-this-very-literal-flight-of-fancy-is-the-years-most-audacious-love-story

    I thought people here might be interested in Bhardwaj Rangan’s review, insofar as it is almost the polar opposite of Margaret’s review, as demonstrated by this byline: “… after a wobbly half-hour I found the film easy to embrace”.

    There seem be two camps, both here in the comments and out in the critic-verse. In one corner are those who recognized and embraced the fantasy and surrealism, the Wes Anderson ness of this movie. In the other corner are those who thought it was too tonally inconsistent to qualify as sheer fantasy or surrealism, and therefore questioned either the need for, or the consistency of, various aspects of the film.

    So here is my whack a mole theory. If you’ve grown up on Hindi cinema (and by grown up on, I include people who didn’t start until their teens or twenties, since those are still our taste-forming years), then you’ve had to suspend disbelief so often while watching Indian film that you have become inurred to it. So even seeing SRK as a dwarf in a not-disability-of-the-week movie in the first ten seconds isn’t enough to signal that this is all surrealism. Nor is seeing anushka driving down the highway among cars in a wheelchair. Nor the million other clues and cues. And there is so much unreality in the reality of Hindi film that Hindi films which are actually fantasy or surrealism bomb unless they are firmly rooted in Hindu mythology, history, or folklore (eg padmaavat). So Jagga, Shandaar, Jaanemaan, all tanked. And with PK everyone went in with blind faith in a Hirani-Aamir partnership, else it would have tanked too. We are used to seeing unreality in film and still judging the characters based on reality.

    But if you have grown up on western cinema, maybe came to Hindi film in midlife (let’s say 40+), you are used to films in which reality is quite realistic, such that everything else is considered fantasy/surreal by default, then any deviation from reality is your signal that this is a fantasy/surreal movie. So even a movie like eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, which has very gritty and realistic dialog, locales, etc, is tonally accepted as surrealistic, whereas in Hindi cinema that same movie would be considered reality with a plot twist.

    Maybe the TLDR of this is: in western cinema, a movie is fantasy/surreal unless it’s tonaly consistently realistic, but in Hindu cinema, a movie is considered realistic, or realism, unless it’s tonally absolutely consistent with fantasy/surrealism.

    Here’s a litmus test, inspired by joyomama/procrastinatrix above. When you saw Baauwa send shooting stars to earth with his pointer finger, did you immediately decide that you were watching a surreal or magical-realism movie and approach the rest of the film that way? Or did you say to yourself “yeah, and?” and continue to be grounded in reality for the rest of the movie?

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    • THANK YOU!!!! Oh, this is brilliant and articulates exactly what I think I have been struggling with myself in this movie and in some others.

      Yes, seeing things like the shooting stars made me go “yeah, so?” In the same way that watching a Hollywood movie and seeing the heroine in an unrealistically large apartment would make me go “yeah, so?” It’s still following the rules of the “standard” filmic universe for the genre. So I expect all the other rules to be followed as well unless told otherwise. And this movie was an odd combination of the “usual” rules of Indian (well, really Hindi) film reality and then suddenly breaking all the rules. Realistic NASA training sequence, a hero who is flawed, all of that says “not your usual Hindi movie”, but then the shooting stars and songs say “your usual Hindi movie”. It just doesn’t fit together right in my head. If I was looking at the film in isolation, or as part of the Hollywood tradition, maybe it would make sense to me.

      On Mon, Dec 24, 2018 at 8:45 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Just seeing your remarks now. What you say about the tonal differences and audience expectations/interpretations makes so much sense! I started watching Hindi movies in my 40’s, so I fit with your theory. To answer your question belatedly, on the first watch I thought that we were firmly in the world of magical realism when Bauua is knocking stars out of the sky on his roof. This was confirmed when Aafia witnesses his star powers–it’s not just in his head, therefore he is doing magic.

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  12. I saw Zero for the second time last night and have additional thoughts.

    1) Katrina is so good in this. Also, her character is so well-written. Her interactions with SRK consistently outshine Anushka’s, flipping the chemistry in JTKJ. The scene when she throws him out is even more powerful on the second watch, because of the chemistry they have. We know he wants to leave but realizes that she depends on him to screen out the pain in her life. He purposefully heaps humiliation on her until she is forced to load it back on him and send him packing. I saw it as playing the role of the scapegoat (in the Hebrew scriptures, an animal which is ritually burdened with the sins of others, then driven away.) Is there a similar concept in India?

    2) SRK sells his character right down to his toes. Even when he becomes a better person, Bauua is still Bauua. I think an actor can only maintain that kind of character integrity from the inside out. And he made Bauua likeable for me, even when he’s being awful, because I understood from the beginning that despite his arrogant, confident facade, he really doesn’t think much of himself. It’s a well-drawn, brilliantly executed character.

    3) Anushka’s character is everything she accuses Bauua of being, particularly arrogant. She talks down to him, she patronizes him, she dismisses him. She is the one who starts their little war of humiliation. Of the three main characters, I find her transformation the least credible. Again, the flip of JTKJ. Because I know what she is capable of, I blame the script, which revealed the least about Aafia.

    The next time I see it (Netflix seems likely), I want to focus on the part that humiliation plays. And I wonder: is Bauua also Aafia’s scapegoat?

    I can reduce the parts I disliked and felt the movie could do without to three elements: the baby, the gun, the chimpanzee.

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    • 1) Yes! And it is the flip of JTHJ because they don’t try to make it romantic. The parts in JTHJ when SRK and Kat were just talking were fine, interesting even with his cocky Punjabi contrasting her restrained British. But then it had to keep being swung around to perfect romance instead of leaving them as just people. Maybe it is a combined issue. I still think SRK and Kat have the opposite of romantic chemistry and will never work as a love pair. But I also think that scripts tend to be a lot lazier with the romantic relationships, leaning on “love and first sight” and so on instead of actually building a connection. In JTHJ, it was SRK-Anushka that benefitted from the slow build of a friendship, in this movie it is SRK-Kat. Oh, and I don’t know of a scapegoat character in Hindi mythology, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It is definitely what was happening there, SRK represented all the cocky selfish shallow masculinity and Kat was throwing him out which gave her the strength to go back and reject the much more subtle version of it in Abhay. And from the flipside, I think that was also part of SRK’s motivation, seeing Abhay’s horribleness revealed to him his own sins and made him want Kat (or some woman) to punish him. So Kat was the opposite of a scapegoat for him, representing the punishment Anushka should give him and therefore freeing him from desiring that punishment, or fearing it.

      2) Yes! I wish there was less accent and CGI, because underneath that is a performance that sells it without needing tricks. But the tricks obscure that a bit. That’s one of the things I love about Fan, we get to contrast Gaurav and Aryan and see how Shahrukh created a character from the inside out in both cases, just one of them looks exactly like him and the other one is all CGI’d.

      3) Thank you, glad to hear my opinion confirmed from someone who liked the movie. Remove everything else, I still don’t think Anushka’s character works. She was angry without a clear reason (based on their conversation at the wedding which didn’t seem to give a reason for that kind of anger). And then the second half turns into Shahrukh “winning” her and getting her to let go of anger and pride and admit her love, instead of getting her to admit her own culpability in the way Shahrukh admitted his. If Bauua is also Afia’s scapegoat, that also gives a new meaning to his astronaut journey, proving to her about herself that she need not settle, need not cut herself off from anything, just as he proves it about himself. Aafia is seemingly so strong and beyond her disability, but then she admits at the wedding to her parents and to Shahrukh that she is settling for what she thinks is the best she can have.

      On Thu, Jan 3, 2019 at 10:13 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • It would have been far more interesting for Anushka’s character as well to see the conflict of deciding to keep the pregnancy, and then the baby. Was it a concern that her body might not be able to carry another child to term? Was it a simple matter of wishing to keep the baby no matter where it came from? Was there family pressure she resented in forcing her to keep the child, did her family make her feel guilty for the public shame in some way? Is this part of why she accepted the unexciting proposal from Madhavan, to make it up to her family? And then tie the baby into her character journey and why she is so cold and angry now versus how she was in the conversation before the wedding.

          On Thu, Jan 3, 2019 at 11:22 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, agreed that Aafia’s character, the baby, and the relationship between them are underdeveloped. When I was thinking back after reading the comments I wondered if it was the same old problem of the female character that doesn’t have enough fullness or motivation, it’s interesting that was Joyomama’s reaction on the second watch. It feels like Aafia should be well enough developed because we see her at work and get a glimpse of her family, but we don’t actually get much sense of her as a person except in relation to Bauua. Maybe that conversation with Maddy over lunch is the moment for greatest personal insight, and she ends up talking about the ape! You’re right that showing more of what happened with the baby (like that sequence in Humsafar!) would do a lot to illuminate her transition and who she is in the second half.

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          • We also don’t really get a sense of her at work. There’s a massive plot hole in that she seems to be multiple kinds of scientists, the math genius who figures out trajectories, and also the astrologer visionary who plans to send a machine to the moon, and finally the ape trainer. I could maybe buy math genius/visionary, but throwing in the ape as well just ruins it. Not in an “unbelievable” way, but in a way that makes it harder to understand who she is as a character. Is she a visionary who inspires others? Or is she a genius who works on her own and has a hard time in team environments? Or is she an intuitive empathetic person who trains animals? It’s a missed opportunity to give us a better sense of her character through the kind of work she does.

            We get all of this flat statements of how she is feeling, telling Buua that they match, or telling him later that she is angry, but I didn’t get a sense that the screenwriters really knew her from the inside out, took the time to figure out what made this character tick, the way they did for Shahrukh and Kat’s roles. Same problem with Madhavan, but then he’s not one of the leads so it doesn’t matter as much. But weirdly, I also felt like I fully understood Abhay in a way I didn’t Anushka. He’s a shallow guy who needs constant validation from the women he romances, and when it becomes too easy, he moves on. Somehow his character in a few lines and scenes was completely clear, but Anushka and Madhavan with much mroe time were not.

            On Thu, Jan 3, 2019 at 12:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Ahem. I’m going to diagnose that as a common male screenwriter problem. (Maybe a screenwriter problem in general, but more common with male screenwriters when it comes to female characters.) Abhay’s character is probably one they know well. They can sketch him in effortlessly with a few strokes. Guessing they don’t know any high-achieving female scientists, or many scientists in general, or possibly any women living with long-term illnesses like CP. They didn’t do the work to understand Aafia’s character and make her real.

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          • P.S. Thinking about Humsafar made me think Mahira could have done a beautiful job as Aafia, her combination of vulnerability and strength. Though maybe still not enough to overcome the script deficiencies.

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    • Great point that Aafia humiliates Bauua first. Her character made more sense to me on the second watch. I think the conversation in the bar where she is bragging about her achievements sets it up for us that her flaw, or “incompleteness” as the filmmakers keep saying, is pride, with a hefty dose of self-centeredness. Which could be true for a character who has achieved a stellar career (haha) despite the challenges of CP.

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      • She talks about loving Shahrukh because he doesn’t look down on her, just sees her. But in fact, she is guilty of the same thing. She looks down on him, not for his physical issues, but for his lack of education and accent and everything else. He proves himself in the end not through overcoming his height (that is barely mentioned in the second half), but through accomplishments.

        On Thu, Jan 3, 2019 at 11:47 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  13. I had hoped to see Zero one more time in theaters over the weekend, but yesterday was the last day for it in my local theaters. So, I ran from the office to catch the last two hours of it–got there just in time for the drunk “I have to pee” scene with Anushka, so missed Husn Parchm but got to see Mera Naam Tu and the rest. Something about that world, I wanted to go back there again. It really won’t be the same on a small screen, but I look forward to watching it again streaming anyway.

    Two things I noticed on this third watch, one small, one big. Bauua gives his coat to a homeless lady during Tanha Hua–this time I saw that the sign she is using to ask for money says that she is pregnant. An extra poignancy to the fact that he gives her the coat and doesn’t take it back as he does his other gifts, given that he’s just learned he was not around to help Aafia while she was pregnant.

    The bigger one is that they messed with Shah Rukh’s teeth. I don’t know whether he’s wearing a prosthetic or they did it in post production, but I’m not a fan. Especially because it seems to have been done pretty inconsistently. Basically they mirrored his actual overlapping incisor on the left side on his right side as well. It’s most noticeable when he is smiling at Aafia during his initial wooing. Here’s an image from Red Chillies which shows the change.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dve1mt-W0AAHTKC.jpg:large

    And another image from Red Chillies which shows his actual teeth–again, so inconsistent!

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DvpNAEDUcAAz1GV.jpg:large

    Why do you think they made this choice? Once I noticed the difference, I noticed that he smiles and grimaces with both sides of his upper lip raised quite a bit more than in other roles. Hmm. Maybe just to emphasize the general in your face-ness of Bauua? Or to differentiate from the “usual” Shah Rukh expressions?

    Obsessive? Probably, but at least this is a pretty safe outlet for my obsessiveness. And I have a thing for Shah Rukh’s teeth in particular because they are such a distinguishing feature and really shape his face and lips.

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    • Now see, I would have flipped those around! Teeth small, homeless lady gift-BIG! I noticed it as well, and I think it is the first time we see Shahrukh’s character do something selfless for a stranger. We’ve heard the occasional comment at this point, but we haven’t seen it.

      On Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 7:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  14. Uffff! I’m quite exhausted by reading reviews and comments all in one chunk. So, so interesting…both sides.
    Clearly I join the Emily, joyomama, procrastinatrix side. And not only the side but what was written as positive, coherent or necessary, I almost thought everything the same.

    I think you know that I have a knack for structures, the number 3 and also for curved lines (zeros included). I see a three part movie with three different layers interacting. And I see a lot of curved lines like arcs. Let me explain:

    The parts (the most easy);
    1st part Meerut (introduction of Bauua and his position in family and neighbourhood – charming Aafia – Babita /wedding)…those parts equally can be separated into three units: Bauua’s confrontation to his father, Bauua getting people to the cinema, Bauua watching Katrina on big screen …you see what I mean (If you want you can try for yourself)

    2nd part is the Babita episode and 3rd one the US one

    There is a narrative arc from the very first scene to the very last one with the notion of hero. The film opens with a dream sequence (rooted in a real life situation because Bauua is sleeping) where Bauua is a fully grown hero coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress (did you notice that the villain was his father and the damsel the family maid?), a kind of cool Hindi film scene we all are accustomed to. The last scene (interestingly after a black screen of some seconds so one thinks that the movie has finished) the kid-sized hero announces his going to his Aafia now being back into real life coming from a journey rooted in the movie magic.

    Already the first scene introduces one of the movie’s layers: the world of movies (Baradwaj gives some examples) with it’s magic, trappings, played emotions, improbabilities, star adulation, lost grip on reality. One of the most obvious key scenes is at Babita’s party (Bauua the winner being put on a pedestal, declared as attraction of the party where the real movie stars gather around). This is also one of those situations when the movie glides into another layer because it clearly shows a kind of dismantling of ShahRukh’s star persona, who loses out on success by apparently losing his magic touch in the (Hindi) film world (I like the fact that only actresses he worked with are commenting on his failure).
    The third (and most obvious) layer deals with everything that belongs to the narratives about Bauua, Aafia, Babita, Guddu and others.

    Himanshu and Aanand make clear very soon that Bauua has a connection to space and that this angle would serve as a magic streak in the narration (which itself deals with real emotions). Knowing the trailer, knowing that they shot at the Rocket Centre, I simply knew – seeing Bauua make shooting stars – he would be in this rocket going on a mission. It became clear when Aafia told about her dream in the hotel bar. (There already she wanted to take a human instead of an ape.) What I didn’t know from the beginning was that it would be connected to his unwillingness to commit to serious things in his life (like taking responsibilities through a profession or earning money or seriously dating a woman). He instead committed to Babita. That’s why I find this part also very important because it serves as a transition from 1 to 3… without his experiences there and then the juxtaposing of Babita as bride in the wheelchair to Aafia as bride (similar bridal dress) he may have blocked out Aafia until Babita would have thrown him out against his wish. (But he did, what Gaurav couldn’t do, he took over his own life – in addition giving Babita a tool to free herself… this ‘angel-thing’ being another reference to flying)

    The baby sequence is crucial because it even motivates him more to take responsibilities and commit to love…he rightly says that he does the flight for love (no ‘false’ patriotism).

    Well, I’ll stop here (although I could go on and on with all what I see in this movie). But it’s already long and I even don’t know if someone will read it after such a long time…

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    • It is an exhausting wealth of comments! I really like your idea of space/sky being connected to true emotion, and tying in Babita as angel. That fits also with Bauua losing his power over the stars when he stops being true to his heart.

      How were you able to see the movie at last?

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      • It was screened in Germany in s o m e theatres (1 sceen/9 theatres, ovgermsub, 20th of January) and – thanks to the nice forces of the Universe – in two cities near my village (only one hour drive). And again thanks to the Universe, in one theatre already one show on Friday evening and a second show on Sunday morning…and in the other theatre the Sunday show was in the afternoon.
        It will come in far more theatres/cities on 21th of February but dubbed in German…so nooooo. I prefer to wait for the streaming.

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    • I’ve been waiting with anticipation for your comments, Claudia, and they do not disappoint! For me the biggest a-ha moment in your thoughts was the connection between the last scene and the first scene. It bothered me. I had wished that the movie would have ended on that black screen that you mention, with the final thought that we love despite our certainty that it might all end in a trail of smoke. But I can live with the last scene better seeing it as a parallel to the first scene. Bauua as the real conquering hero who has accomplished feats and is now coming home to his reward–Aafia and his teenaged daughter–vs Bauua the dream hero who talks big but hasn’t done much.

      That scene where Bauua/Shah Rukh has lost his magic in such a public way. Oh, it killed me. He achieves such vulnerability in his movies. And I hope that stripping down and then finding joy again in Tanha Hua is also partially Shah Rukh’s response. In the end, what he loves is acting, and he loves it unabashedly (that’s not a sexy or cool dance at the end of Tanha Hua, it’s a “dancing in the shower by myself because I can’t not move” sort of dance).

      Please do comment more as thoughts occur. I’m watching fuzzy versions uploaded on to YouTube, without subtitles, until a legit streaming option is available, because I can go back to these characters, performances, and songs over and over again. I’d especially like your thoughts on Aafia’s arc and Anuskha’s performance.

      I do hope that we can have a DCIB watch-along once it is streaming, so we can discuss in detail, whether the movie worked or didn’t work for each of us!

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  15. Thanks a lot for commenting to you, too, procrastinatrix. You and Emily give me a reason to continue with my take on Zero 🙂

    Zero…ten films in one:

    • Zero is a true Indian film, a Hindi movie where emotions are the most important things to convey.
    • Zero is a mature film because the main characters learn something very important at some point of their film-journey…Bauua and Babita in a learning process, Aafia in a kind of instant reaction.
    • Zero is a poetic movie, a fable transported on screen with wonderful visuals and melodies and words.
    • Zero is the third film of a trilogy serving to show and dismantle the trappings of a star persona, the other two being Fan and JabHarryMetSejal.
    • Zero is an audacious movie because it portrays three characters that don’t fit the usual leading characters-material of Hindi movies.
    • Zero is an unconventional film because people with shortcomings aren’t pitied (Bauua, Aafia, Guddu, Babita) yet shown how they achieve important things despite the shortcomings.
    • Zero is a funny film because there is so much humour in scenes and words.
    • Zero is a magical film because it shows magical things and the ability to fly high on imagination and love (for oneself and/or another person).
    • Zero is a well thought-through film as it has distinctive structures relative to the story, the narrative and the characters.
    • Zero is an innovative film that uses technical effects not seen like this before.

    Does one have to use the childlike ability to believe in magic and the life experience of an adult to connect to this movie? Does one have to come without preconception, with the so-called open mind and open heart? Does one simply have to follow the path the director/writer lays out?

    In the first part, I already mentioned the number 3 which is important for this movie. Considering the structure of the whole movie this follows the 3-act structure of a theatre play. In Fan this structure was shown in the narrative combined with places (India, Overseas, India and Gaurav getting into contact with Aryan, Aryan chasing for the contact with Gaurav, Aryan getting into contact with Gaurav). In JHMS, it was in the narrative only (like in an intimate theatre play). In Zero, it is concentrated on places and persons (Meerut, Mumbai, USA and Bauua-Aafia, Bauua-Babita, Bauua-Affia).

    In Zero, the transition from one part to the next is announced in the previous part, but one can also look at each part separately. The transition is done like an arc from one special event to the next part. The kiss from Babita and the invitation to the dance competition foreshadow Bauua’s get-together with Babita, the wheelchair-scene gives the connection to Bauua’s revival of his relation with Aafia. Whatever happens after these points in the narrative is only a delay where the decisions for the transition are made (the non-happening wedding, challenging Babita to throw him out).
    Bauua leaves known ground for the unknown. He does it three times, the last one leaving the earth, and each leaving triggered by the love for someone else. Love is the main changer in this movie and the most powerful one. Each time, Bauua leaves everything behind to get a new start. That is very courageous and shows a strength that is inherent to Bauua independent of his physical height or education level.

    One of the main criticism points to overindulgence in meaningless scenes or even parts. In my opinion, nothing is meaningless in Zero and everything serves the narrative.
    Also Bauua’s and Aafia’s character traits met with non-acceptance and/or incomprehension.

    If there is interest, I would continue with that in part 3.

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    • Yes, please! Thinking of FAN and JHMS as a trilogy is really interesting. I remember how shocked I was when Harry almost spits on the guy in the opening credits of JHMS, and then flips off a woman in the first 10 minutes?!? Talk about deconstructing Shah Rukh’s image! And your insight about Bauua taking charge of his life, choosing real love instead of fantasy in a way that Gaurav wasn’t able to, broke my heart for Gaurav all over again.

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  16. Okay, so be it. Part 3:

    One of the main criticism points to overindulgence in meaningless scenes or even parts. In my opinion, nothing is meaningless in Zero and everything serves the narrative.
    Also Bauua’s and Aafia’s character traits met with non-acceptance and/or incomprehension.

    Bauua:
    The dream scene shows his father (as we know immediately after that scene) as a villain and indeed, the way the father treats his son lacks any respect…so from where should Bauua learn respecting others. In the contrary, he will do whatever he feels convenient to get respect from others through the means he has – mainly his father’s position and money. As he isn’t imposing physically, he imposes himself through his behaviour. He is insolent, rude and spendthrift, but also charming, likable and generous. I doubt that he will change those traits, they may belong to him his whole life, be it as survival tools or because it is in his nature.
    However there is something that will change considerably which is his sense of responsibility and his perseverance. I find it very interesting that it is with Babita that he starts to learn it.

    Aafia:
    I guess that Aafia had Polio as a kid which resulted in her actual physical condition remaining the same the rest of her life. Therefore she and her family had learned to accept her shortcomings in movement and speech and did focus on promoting all her intellectual abilities. However, similar to Bauua, the emotional needs weren’t fulfilled in a satisfying way and Aafia puts a front of arrogance, pride and sarcasm to protect her vulnerability. She already has what Bauua lacks: sense of responsibility and perseverance. So what does she have to learn? Maybe loving herself and trusting someone who is imperfect.

    Babita:
    As she serves as a catalyst to stir Bauua into changing and as a symbol for a megastar with an avid fan following, parts of her character aren’t designed. Her shortcoming is a common one: heartbreak and escape into the alcohol. Babita feels incomplete as it is her external beauty and sexiness that is cherished; people give a damn to the person she is inside. That will change because of Bauua whom she first perceives as a toy and than accepts as an entertaining companion (but not as a lover). Bauua has a kind of unconditional love for her that starts with fanlike admiration to become a caring affection. He can relate to Babita’s damaged emotions but not to the world she lives in. It is clear that this life on the surface isn’t made for Bauua. Failing to make stars shooting is a sign that he isn’t genuinely emotionally involved and that he doesn’t give his heart to this world of glamour and pretending. (I connect that with ShahRukh’s “demotional” – having feelings but being also detached.) Still, Babita and Bauua (both “B” and two “a”) have something in common – they want being loved for the person they are, experience true love. They have to unburden themselves from emotional baggage that wears them down and hinder them to be free to fly.
    It is Bauua who reminds Babita that she was an angel once and that she can fly. As he feels that his love for Babita bounds him to her, he pushes her into actively destroy their tie which enables Babita later to free herself from her cheating lover.
    Three of the movie’s key scenes are with Babita: the kiss, the party, the struggle

    Guddu:
    Basically, he is Bauua’s closest friend, a trusty companion in all their endeavours. Guddu, too, has a shortcoming his left eye being a glass eye. One gets to know that Bauua is responsible for Guddu’s loss. Being a true friend is the character’s main purpose but he still has another assignment as he has to shed light on certain scenes. In addition to being one-eyed, Guddu is also night-blind and needs a spotlight to see in the dark.

    None of the physically impaired persons in this movie pities itself, wants pity or gets pity.

    I already mentioned some narrative arcs I noticed in the movie, but there are more.

    Bauua giving away money at the beginning of the movie (and then throughout) ends when he takes his money back because he now has a distinct purpose to need it for himself.

    Bauua having sex with Aafia gets a double arc with the first ending when he grabs the baby to protect himself from further violent acts. From the moment he feels a caring responsibility for his daughter then goes an arc to the point where he doesn’t take back his coat he gave to a pregnant woman.

    There is an arc from Bauua’s dancing with Aafia where he jumps and sits on her wheelchair to the dance competition where he jumps on Salman and instead of shouting “Babita”, he first shouts “Aafia”. Dancing is something Bauua loves wholeheartedly and excels in. There is no arc from his shouting “Babita”; that is just the real beginning for living something as a transition to his next shout of “Aafia” in the auditorium.

    I equally noticed psychological arcs (not narrative ones) one going from his father using his belt to harm him physically to Aafia’s weapon also used to harm him. Another one goes from his dedication to serve Babita to his dedication to serve Aafia’s mission.
    Aafia having a weapon with which she protects herself equals the bodyguards Babita uses for her protection. Bauua only has his demeanour,chutzpah and – in a certain way – Guddu as protection.
    Although Bauua, Aafia and Babita have support (family members, fiancé, employees), they lack the sense of basic trust. Aafia’s fiancé (short appearance but well played by Madhavan) who seems to have this kind of trust isn’t able to give Aafia the feeling to be physically desirable, yet that was something Bauua gave her.

    In no way I was bothered with the training part. Apart from the zero-gravity-sequence where Aafia could show her movement skills and flying still being attached to the ground and Bauua was more or less helplessly trying to adapt, all the exercises (challenging his body and mind) were important to show the increasing will to not giving up (and I wasn’t bored at all to see ShahRukh doing all those things!). Bauua steadily gathered strength and – somehow – grandeur. (I liked his take on feeling taller without getting taller – another connection to himself .)

    My favourite key scene was the moment where he decides to take responsibility for his life and to commit to his love for Aafia. It was liberating and excellently played.
    Another one I loved was when he made a star fall in front of Aafia and looking at her, not to the sky. It was so touching that I shed some tears of happiness.

    Bauua, btw, took Meerut to the USA through his kind of smiling to the camera which – it seems – is typical for the people of Meerut.

    Well, I think, I’ve shown how much I love this movie and appreciate the courage, ideas and work that went into the making. If there are any questions left, just ask them…maybe I have an answer. 🙂

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  17. The most important thing – I’m so glad I didn’t leave Christmas dinner to see this movie!

    Sorry for confused comment. I have so many thoughts but they are all mess just like the movie.
    I finally finished it today and I literally wanted to scream. So many people have read this script and nobody said it’s terrible and with too many plots? And what Aanand L. Rai wanted to tell with this film? I don’t have idea. Being honest I enjoyed Race 3 much more then this one. Acting was not existent in Race 3 but at least they knew what they wanted to do! I’m so angry now. It was like watching money burning without any reason.

    I only want to remember 2 things:
    -Katrina’s red suit. OMG she looks faboulus! I want this outfit!
    -Madhavan in wedding attire – he is always hot, but in southern wedding clothes he’s HOT HOT HOT and no normal woman would left him at the altar.

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    • I forgot about Kat’s red suit! Thank you for reminding me. It was such a perfect outfit for that scene, a power color and sexy, but also powerful and in control and free.

      And, yes!!!! What was the point? I don’t mind a winding plot with a lot of stories in it so long as I feel like there is some kind of theme that ties it together. City of God is still one of my all time favorite movies, and that goes up and down and sideways and all over. But this movie, I just can’t see a theme.

      Which doesn’t mean there isn’t one. You can read the comments from Procrastinatrix and Emily and Claudia to see the themes they found in the film, maybe something there will lock it into place for you.

      On Mon, Feb 11, 2019 at 11:01 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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      • Another thing that really disappointed me – I wanted to see this movie for 3 reasons:
        SRK
        Maddy
        Sridevi
        After seeing the first hour I was discouraged but I kept saying: c’mon do it for Maddy and Sridevi’s last role. Only to discover that Sridevi doesn’t even have a role! She is on screen for 2 minutes and is playing herself on a party.
        After that I was only wating for Maddy, and here another surprise – they hidden all his sexiness under those atrocious clothes. Thanks God for the wedding scene!

        Oh I was waiting for Arjun Kapoor too because I think I saw “thank you Arjun Kapoor” on the screen in the beginning, and he was no in this film 😦

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        • The Sridevi role didn’t really surprise me, because I think it kind of came out there would be a party scene with his heroines. But Maddy was a disappointment. And, for me, a flaw in the script, that the other leg of the love triangle was so underwritten and opaque.

          On Mon, Feb 11, 2019 at 2:07 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, he was terribly written. They needed some guy Anushka could marry, but didn’t want to spend 10 minutes to write him (in a movie that took years to be done!) And so they just put him in (just like the baby) without any sense or continuity. Anushka had more feelings for her chimpanze and Maddy didn’t care about her also.

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          • You know what would have made sense of Maddy’s character? If he was officially either gay or asexual. That’s how he was written anyway, the uninterested boring safe option versus Shahrukh’s danger and excitement and passion. We never saw anything that felt like a spark between them, and in the end when he sends her away from the wedding it feels more like an acknowledgement that what their plan isn’t going to work out than heartbreak. If it had been explicit that they were expecting a loveless marriage, so much more of the plot would have fallen in to place.

            On Mon, Feb 11, 2019 at 2:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

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          • But if he were officialy gay he wouldn’t be competitor for SRK.

            And I realize only now that Maddy used the monkey to propose because it was the only way to attract Anushka. Or maybe it was monkey who proposed? Really, this monkey, and not Maddy was the third man in this triangle. And it’s says a lot about ridiculousness of this film!

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          • Then I’m back on officially asexual. That’s what it felt like anyway, that they had common interests and it made sense for them to marry, but neither of them was attracted to the other.

            On Mon, Feb 11, 2019 at 3:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • But Maddy didn’t belong to a love triangle…it was Bauua and two women, not Aafia and two men. Bauua did not compete with Maddy.
            Anyways, why should Aafia marry a man who loved her mind but not her body? And kudos to Maddy that he realized that mistake.
            Yed, ideed, there is a very prominent theme…right from the beginning until the last scene…and it’s a theme that belongs to the three protagonists and each one has to deal with it in its own way and succeeds.

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          • No, Maddy isn’t asexual but his marriage would be based on mutual workinterest and caring for her and the kid, he feels no sexual attraction for Aafia but could maybe for other women. But that is of no importance because the marriage is the important plotpoint, not Maddy.

            Margaret, I remember that you told you had to watch JHMS a second time to appreciate it. What about Zero? Maybe a second view would bring a change?

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          • It’s possible. What’s different about jhms, is that i wanted that second view. I was so-so on it after my first watch, but it kept popping up in my brain again and again, and i enjoyed it enough to want to bring friends with me. This movie, i didn’t feel that need to see it a second time, or bring friends.

            Which isn’t to say it might not still be better on a second watch! Just that it’s not like jhms for me.

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