Every Addition, Subtraction, and Change to the Theatrical Version of Zero Versus the Netflix Version and How They Change Things

Well, this was a grumpy day. I kept starting and stopping Zero while watching the cleaning person clean and realizing that the only person who cleans to my standards is me and it is VERY FRUSTRATING watching someone else clean not quite as well. Watching Zero again did not necessarily make me less grumpy. Although at least I had the little treasure hunt for the things that were changed (why? how? what?) to keep me busy!

Big picture, I think this is a far better version of the film than the theatrical version. Anushka’s character is softened at certain key moments. One of my biggest problems with the theatrical version is that Anushka was so opaque. It messed with the other characters because they had nothing to act against, and it made the film hard to watch because we didn’t sympathize with her or want good things for her. And it also made the ending voice over very strange, to have her be the character that gives the little sum up after she was so empty and unknown before then.

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This version has a few small changes, almost all of which can be tied back to deepening Anushka’s character. And a couple others which I can’t find a reason for. Overall, this feels more like a “director’s cut” than a recut to me. Like the version we saw in theaters was the one edited to give Shahrukh more of a hero’s story and without bits that might be “extraneous” to the plot even if they are artistically more satisfying. I wonder (and actually sent a message to Netflix asking, always a slight chance they will respond) if this truly is the director’s cut. If the Indian distributors and theaters put pressure on Red Chillies to release a more “popular” version, but their deal with Netflix let them put out the original real version.

The biggest change was the opening. The new opening is Anushka giving a voice over as we see her in the center of a crowd rushing around backstage. She gives us the setting, that she is about to go speak to a symposium. And that she is upset and has a gun. But far more important than that is what she says about herself, and what the choice to use this opening tells us about this film. Anushka explains that her voice doesn’t normally sound like this, but she wants us to hear it this way first. The film wants us to hear her voice this way too, to get inside of her head, to have this moment in our minds and wait for it to come for the rest of the film. It is now definitively Anushka’s story, not Shahrukh’s.

It is also a story of disability. Anushka introduces herself by telling us not to laugh at her, by saying she wants us to hear her real voice, and then by talking about how her family loved and supported her, gave her an education, and she succeeded in life. This is why this voice over was supposed to come right before Shahrukh’s intro, we have to understand that their circumstances made them into what they are, gave them their own weaknesses and strengths, both created through their disabilities and how their families and situations reacted to them.

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This scene is still not included. I wonder where it disappeared to? Or if it was just a look test for the CGI.

And the message of the film is Anushka’s too, in a nice little bookend of this scene and the final voice over. She starts out explaining that this story is to warn us not to trust cute charming little men. But by the end of the story we will have the moral of trust and faith over all, look to the good and not the bad.

And then we come to the theatrical opening, a fantasy of an old west town with Shahrukh as a cowboy saving the damsel in distress. Which goes into his real life and his family who treat him with a mixture of contempt and pity. We have the direct contrast of Anushka, far more disabled than he is (wheelchair, difficulty speaking) who is loved and surrounded by family with Shahrukh, left in his room to talk to the maid, hated by his father and pitied by his mother. That is what makes them match.

And then I think there is a very small change with Shahrukh’s first real scene, but I’m not sure if it is a real change or if I just didn’t remember it correctly. He comes out on the balcony and Zeeshan Ayyub is below, telling him about Katrina’s latest romance breaking up. And then he asks Shahrukh to throw down money in order to help them celebrate Eid. The money throwing is generosity, fellow feeling, in response to a special occasion. As I remember the theatrical version, Shahrukh throws the money down in response to the Katrina news, making it all about himself, and seeming a needless waste of his father’s money. In a similar fashion, after he has the confrontation with his father, his father takes away his car keys. Which is why they have to take the rickshaw to the theater. Those two little changes (if they were changes) combined with Anushka’s opening voice over changes my whole first impression. He is not egotistical and spoiled, he is struggling because his family never believed in him and therefore he never believed in himself. He rebelled by making friends among the Muslim lower classes, and when his car is taken away, he is willing to ride a rickshaw and not feel embarrassed.

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And also not be embarrassed to use his size to try to get a discount, since he already has no self-respect

And then no changes in the next part, so far as I can tell. They go to the movie, Shahrukh gets a phone call from the marriage broker, Zeeshan asks what that was about, Shahrukh explains how he saw Anushka’s photo, tracked her down, was turned off by her disability while she was turned off by his class and lack of education and general demeanor. Again, opening with Anushka and having the contrast in how they are treated by the people around them changes this. Anushka is a snob, looks down on Shahrukh for his personality, not seeing that it is a defense mechanism he learned to handle his disability, a defense mechanism she was lucky enough not to need. And Shahrukh is clinging to the small confidence he has in himself, by looking down on Anushka for her much greater disability. Their back and forth becomes explicitly about class and privilege more than anything else.

Blah-blah, Shahrukh successfully seduces her, she lands up at his family house and his father encourages the marriage. There’s a little moment when his father talks to hers and encourages them to take Shahrukh to America and put him on display, sell tickets to see the freak. Having in our head that Anushka’s parents were loving and supportive of her from that first voice over makes this moment have extra resonance, the father who sees his daughter as a blessing, doesn’t want her to settle in marriage, versus the father who sees his son as a literal freakshow.

No changes to this sequence, thank goodness, because it is kind of perfect.

Shahrukh and Anushka have their painful conversation, Shahrukh runs off and joins the dance contest, wins, goes to the party, sees all the famous actresses, meets Katrina, becomes her best friend, keeps thinking about Anushka, calls her as Madhavan is proposing to her, has a fight with Katrina, calls up Zeeshan and tells him they are going to America. They arrive, go through security, and then NEW SCENE!!!

We go from security to the beginning of Anushka’s speech. The sound is way off in this part, her lips don’t match up at all. It doesn’t really give new information, but it works as an editing choice because we need that moment of recognizing her outfit and the location and realizing that it is the moment from the opening.

Other new part, a quick conversation outside the building between Shahrukh and Zeeshan where he uses eye drops to make fake tears. And then we are back to the part in the theatrical version. Anushka talking and Shahrukh and Zeeshan walking in from the back. This whole thing ties back to the opening scene, with us in the audience knowing that Anushka is angry and waiting for him and has a gun, the tension is building and building as we see her talk and Shahrukh arrive outside.

And then the tension releases with the scenes we already got in the theatrical version, him arriving and Anushka shooting at him, and then the reveal that she had his baby. The baby reveal works as a “you thought you knew everything, but wait there is another surprise!” moment. Works better than in the theatrical version where it is two total surprises on top of each other (gun, and then baby).

Blah-blah, no changes, Shahrukh applies to the astronaut program, has an angry conversation with Anushka, stays in the program, does well. And then, in the theatrical version we had a weird bad sequence of events. Anushka notices that her chimp doesn’t want to show off his skills in front of strangers, then sees him with his family, then tells Madhavan that the chimp is failing because he doesn’t want to leave his family and they talk about possibly Shahrukh going instead, Anushka is against it because she doesn’t trust him.

But this version cuts all that! We don’t have to wonder when Anushka became an animal trainer instead of a mathematician, and we don’t have the implication that she is wildly sending her ex-boyfriend to space out of petty spite. No, instead we go from Anushka saying good-bye to the monkey to having a totally different conversation with Maddy.

This time, it is a calm discussion of SRK’s worth as an astronaut by Maddy, and Anushka being upset as he talks. Anushka isn’t sending him to space, Maddy is suggesting it and she is against it. Instead of it being proof of Anushka’s hate and bitterness, filtered through a plot illogic, it becomes foreshadowing of how she still loves Shahrukh. The peak of her emotions was when she confronted him, the bit from the opening, and now she is coming down and making sense of how she really feels. Like a person, instead of a plot device.

And along those same lines, the conversation with Shahrukh about NOT going to Mars feels completely different. Anushka pulls him aside and tells him to run, that she knows he is a coward and won’t go through with it and should just leave. With the original cut, where she was part of the decision to use him, the whole thing feels like a strange test, she is setting him up to fail and doesn’t even know what she wants. And then he makes his star trick work and all the stars fall out of the sky and Anushka drives home torn up inside over what she is doing to him as the stars themselves tell her it is true love and she is wrong.

But in this version! We go from the conversation where Anushka tries to object to Shahrukh going to Mars but can’t come up with a logical reason to her talking to him and trying to convince him to run. Instead of a test, it feels like she is sincerely trying to save him. In a twisted way of course, but still trying to save him. And it’s an important contrast, her conversation with Maddy was calm and reasonable but he didn’t really understand her. With Shahrukh, he knows exactly what she is saying even if she doesn’t say it.

And then it ends with all the scientists coming out to watch the stars falling in awe (not Anushka driving away). And Zeeshan comes out too and talks to one of them and learns that Shahrukh will be going to Mars. Instead of the sequence being about Anushka being petty and Shahrukh loving her, it is about all these small people who are part of a much larger story, Anushka may want Shahrukh to run but he can’t because it is his fate. The stars aren’t a sign of love, they are about a greater destiny than that.

And we go from there to another new scene! I think. Zeeshan and Anushka talking about the mission, Anushka wants him to sign papers as Shahrukh’s next of kin. Zeeshan begs her to ask Shahrukh not to go, she pretends not to care. But with the way the previous scenes were structured we (the audience) know that in her own way she has been trying to stop the mission. This scene adds a little extra layer of depth to the Zeeshan-Shahrukh relationship too. Zeeshan is who started the movie with Shahrukh, Muslim and poor and low calls, but his true friend who follows him everywhere even when his family forgets him. Zeeshan truly is Shahrukh’s family, the only one who cares whether he lives or dies, and signs the papers to prove it in this scene.

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Zeeshan’s eye thing still doesn’t work for me. I got the vague idea of him being poor and disabled and humble and still Shahrukh’s friend, but it still doesn’t quite land.

The echoes of this scene come into the next one with Anushka when Maddy asks Anushka to sign off on the mission, and Shahrukh watches as she does. The two people who care about him (Zeeshan and Anushka) both signing off and sending him away. Without it (if I am remembering correctly that it wasn’t in the original), we don’t have that feeling.

And then the ending is just a little party of alterations. Anushka’s wedding sequence is very quick, they sit down, Maddy gets a call, tells her the launch is happening, she looks doubtful, he says “how long does it take to travel 1.2 miles at 5.8 miles per hour?” She understands what he is saying and gives the answer then says “Only right that I say good-bye” and leaves. My memory of the theatrical version is that this part is dragged out a bit longer, and I don’t remember the cute math joke at all.

The good-bye scene between Anushka and Shahrukh is unchanged, but right after that there are reports around the world of his launch and we see Katrina again, looking light and happy. In the theatrical version, she says “I kissed him once” which is a lovely tying together of their story. That is missing in this version. Such a small change, but it does serve to make the Katrina and Shahrukh relationship feel slightly less meaningful, and therefore give even more weight to the Anushka-Shahrukh relationship.

And then the ending was changed, but not in a way that makes any sense at all! Anushka’s voice over is the same, explaining that Shahrukh was lost in space but she chose to cling to the good things. That is what I would have changed if I had the power to change things, not the voice over, but that it just keeps going as he is lost for 15 years and so on and so forth. But instead, what they changed was adding a Shahrukh voice over about his dimples after Anushka’s speech (I think that was an add at least) and cut his calling of her name, “Aafia!” right before the end credits. I truly have no logical explanation for this change. Do you?

Overall, with these small changes and with just seeing the film a second time, I had a slightly more favorable impression. But I still think it is deeply deeply flawed. The space plot just does not work, the baby still feels like a surprise twist more than a person they want to deal with, and I still don’t like the way Shahrukh is set up as the bad guy for running out on a wedding he didn’t want after honestly talking about how he didn’t want it.

But there is some slight improvement in clarity as to the relationship between Shahrukh’s bad behavior and the way his parents’ treated him, and a great deal of improvement in Anushka’s characturization. We can see a line now from the confident cheerful woman who meets Shahrukh and is won by him, to the angry crazed woman who shoots at him, to the one who chooses hope and faith at the end. That’s a good movie, that’s a good through line. Just dump the baby and the spaceships.

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50 thoughts on “Every Addition, Subtraction, and Change to the Theatrical Version of Zero Versus the Netflix Version and How They Change Things

  1. Ha, dump the baby and the space ships! I would dump the baby and the gun, the monkey can stay now that his family drama is no longer a significant plot point.

    I skim re-watched once, and I’m halfway through another watch with my kids, which always gives me a different perspective. I’ll have deeper thoughts in the second half when we’re through. Observations so far: 1) agree that the constant battles with his family were set up better, though that comment by his father at the wedding went too far to me and didn’t feel believable; 2) agree also about Zeeshan’s half blindness, the flashlight is a prop and it’s distracting, you could have the same character without the blindness and it would work just as well; 3) the kiss scene with Kat stood out to me more this time as important – he sees marriage to Anushka in that moment as settling, and the moment with Kat proves that his wildest dreams are attainable, regardless of what other people think about him and what he’s capable of. That moment is what convinces him to run out on the wedding. (I think the realization he comes to when he’s with Kat is that chasing her was not in fact following his heart, it was still trying to prove something to his family and others who belittled him, which is why he forces her to drive him away and goes to find Anushka. But that comes later.)

    I do think it’s more coherent this way, but my basic reaction so far hasn’t changed. I like the Meerut section, I like the section with Kat, I like the tension and slow winning back of Anushka during the training section. I don’t mind the space story. I hate the scene with the gun and the baby. It’s the important turning point of the plot and it’s just off. Aafia has so many ways of exercising power, I completely don’t believe she would have or use a gun. The baby, as we’ve discussed, disappears almost immediately, which makes her seem more heartless than anything she does to Bauua. A shooting from the stage in the middle of NY would get her arrested and permanently derail her career. None of it is necessary. You don’t need the gun for an explosive confrontation, you don’t need the baby to heighten Bauua’s commitment…since the baby doesn’t factor into the rest of the movie anyway. You can have the emotion without the gimmicks.

    The biggest changes I would make would be to rework that scene, and to shorten the time Bauua goes missing from the impossible 15 years to a more imaginable 3 or 5 years (also, again, imagining the baby makes this decade and a half time span worse, a whole childhood missed).

    And I don’t know why they got rid of that final Aafia! That was my favorite moment at the end, and it connects to other important moments when he yells her name, like when he wins the dance contest. Would have kept that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve watched half the new version and compared it with my memory of the theatrical version and also the iTunes version (which I’m guessing is the same as on google play since they released the same time). I’m focused on finding the differences in this watch so I’m not ready to comment on whether I prefer it or not. And I haven’t watched the second half yet. I’ll perhaps be able to comment more on my reactions later.

    But a couple of points on the differences between the theatrical version and Netflix:
    In the scene where Guddu reads him the article about Babita, he does ask in the original that Bauua send down 500-rupee bundles for Eid because it will “make their day.” And taking away the car keys was likewise in the original.

    What’s missing in the Netflix version is the second part of the exchange between Guddu and Bauua’s parents when they are sitting down to eat and Bauua is yelling in the background that he’ll commit suicide. I wrote down the dialogue (the translation of course).
    After Mom says she’s the real mother…
    Guddu: He cares for you, ma’am. He loves only you. Why do you say that?
    Ashok: You know why? Because that’s what happens in movies. The hero adores his mother. The truth is, if Bachchan didn’t love his mother in Deewana, he wouldn’t love you.
    Guddu: Sir, you can’t force him to get married.
    Ashok (as Adhan is in background): There’s your call. Prayer time. Get lost.
    Mom: You’ll look like a pig on Judgment Day. You’ve ruined your life. Think of your afterlife. Go!

    I myself don’t know how “important” this conversation is, but I can remember loving the Deewana reference and the acknowledgement of how “filmi” Bauua is. Your thoughts?

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    • You are right! That was definitely cut. I think it helps make Shahrukh’s character more sympathetic. In the original, you could argue that his parents saw him truly, he is a fraud who is all about appearances and drama. Or you could argue that it was part of their unfair prejudice against him. When I watched it in theaters, I read that exchange as illuminating the reality of Shahrukh, he is a fraud who sees his life like a movie and doesn’t really care about anyone. But with that line removed, and the other changes, his character is built as a victim of the circumstances around him, his parents did not truly love him or try to make him into anything, so he was left to live his life in fantasy, taking what scraps he could get. Until the kiss from Katrina made him re-evaluate his value.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 12:30 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Seconding that the Eid remark and the dad taking his car keys away are both in the original. I missed that they cut the conversation with Guddu and Bauua’s family. I think it showed that they are not taking Bauua’s not wanting to get married seriously at all, adding to his desperation to escape.

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      • They kept most of the conversation, just cut the bit where they said he only pretended to love his mother more because it is what Amitabh did in Deewar. Personally, I didn’t miss it and thought it made the scene stronger, kept it straight to the point of his family not being sympathetic and seeing this as a way to get rid of him, without adding in the question of if he is just posturing and pretending the way he thinks a hero should act.

        On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 4:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Yes! It definitely could work as a small odd curiosity of a movie at film festivals and in limited release, but there was no way it could make back it’s budget or justify a wide release.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 6:10 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. They also eliminated the most controversial yet the most poignant line in the original. During the guns and babies scene, when Anushka says something like “go ahead and let him take the baby I doubt he can commit to it because he runs away from everything”. Many people complained what a heartless woman would let or even tell someone to take their baby, where as the point was that she knew the baby wouldn’t get taken by a commitment-phobe and she was shaming him by letting him know it. in so many ways, that line showed all the layers of her conflicting emotions. Without the line the scene kind of ended without completion.

    Btw Katrina does say “I kissed him”, but they cut that scene in half, and there is music playing over her saying it. So I guess they tried their best to obliterate the line without reshooting it?

    the second-half feels alot choppier to me now. Like why an entire scene of her returning the ape to its family if there’s no build-up of her emotional connection to the ape? Like that could have just been the start of another scene, rather than its own scene.

    The two examples above along with probably some others if I re-watch it that I could bring up makes it not feel so much like a director’s cut as it feels like a directors edit in response to the poor box office and critical response. I feel like neither the original nor the edited version is wood is really the directors Final Cut and that it’s still somehow a work-in-progress.

    Finally I feel like the first half I have a better sense that srk is pursuing anuschka basically to”win”at a one-upmanship against her, and later realize that he fell in love in the process. I think they added some srk voice overs in the first half to illustrate his motivations more clearly.

    As I mentioned in the Monday post I feel like this is a better movie or story in terms of guiding the audience through it, letting you know what you’re watching, and removing the WTF aspect of it. but for me at least the less voiceover and the more chronological unfolding of the movie in the original did give you more of a Adventure thrill-ride sensation and was ultimately more risky less safe experience. for me that added to the enjoyment. but I imagine that I’m in the minority with this viewpoint.

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    • Oh, that is a good catch! I braced myself when the gun scene started, remembering something horrible about Anushka, and then the only thing was she didn’t cry out when he ran away, so I thought that was it. Forgot about the line. Another comment pointed out that scene with the gun and the baby as just generally messy, since it was supposed to be the emotional turning point of the film any flaws were heightened. I think adding the flashforward voice over opening just puts even more weight on that scene and no matter how they cut it or recut it, the scene itself is intrinsically flawed. If you put that line in, Anushka sounds too heartless. Take it out, and she seems strangely unemotional. You just can’t make it work the way they wanted to, they need to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch with a whole new concept for the turning point.

      I liked the second half because it felt a lot more fast paced than the other cut. But that is just another way of saying “choppy”. A few scenes (like Anushka and Maddy’s conversation, or the scientist and Zeeshan) ended up feeling more like scene fragments than real scenes. I’m glad the edited out the tricky bits, or added in the small moments, but it ended up being a lot more all over than the original cut.

      For me, I just could not connect to the original cut because I couldn’t follow the emotional trajectory of the characters. This cut, they smoothed out the rough edges and made it clearer, which makes it a less exciting and original piece of art but better able to connect with the audience. And that brings up bigger questions of the goal of film, right? Should it be art for art’s sake, or for the purpose of connecting to an audience? For me, the original cut went just slightly too far in the direction of being hard to follow. This cut that brought out a little bit more the contrast between Shahrukh and Anushka as both people born different, softened Anushka a touch and made her emotions easier to understand (I think there is a line in the original cut when she is talking to Maddy when she claims not to feel anything for Shahrukh, and in that cut, a bunch of other small things like that which made her change of mind at the end harder to believe), and you end up with a mostly clear story of two people affected by their talent and their disability (Anushka is too proud and unable to admit she needs help, Shahrukh hides his self-hatred behind bravado) who initially connect because of their disability, then come together again more honestly when they have both moved past their issues (Shahrukh learns to have self worth, Anushka learns it is okay to be weak).

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    • Agree with this take that the Netflix edit is in response to some common audience complaints: why does Aafia’s voiceover not sound like her speaking voice? what does she actually do? how could she say that about Bauua taking the baby? why does she have a gun?

      So one day I’d love to see a director’s cut with help from a stellar editor, to help Rai decide what elements of his characters and what they go through he wants to convey, and which plot elements and dialogues are most conducive to that. It won’t happen, but a girl can dream. Wonder if they will release deleted scenes ever. I don’t think they have yet, have they?

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  4. Here’s my take on the two versions, and on your thoughts in this post. I get why they added Aafia’s voiceover, especially because there was a lot of confusion over what her actual job was, why her internal voice at the end sounded different than her speaking voice (in theaters people wondered did the filmmakers just, like, forget that she has CP?), and why she has a gun. But it feels like spoonfeeding the audience in what is always going to be a fairly non-sensical film, and dilutes the cowboy opening, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This way we get 2 false starts before really jumping into the story.

    I liked the fake tears addition before Guddu and Bauua go into Aafia’s talk in NYC (or is it Orlando–hard to say from all the Orlando signs in Tan Hua 🙂 ). It shows that Bauua still has a ways to go to be worthy of winning Aafia back. This is why I don’t object to the baby or the space ships. Totally agree with losing the monkey and the gun. Bauua knowing he and Aafia have a healthy baby together heals so much in him, in a moment, that he didn’t know was broken. That’s the meaning of his beautiful transformation and dance at the end of Tan Hua. Then Bauua has to go through some grueling obstacle course to prove to himself that he is worthy of Aafia and the baby. A training program for a mission to Mars is as good as anything else. They didn’t need the monkey angle at all. Just do “Mars Idol” as Shuddh Desi Endings beautifully called it, without apology.

    Question–in the Zero Gravity chamber conversation did they cut the line about “hate me but don’t hate the baby?” from the Netflix version? I can’t remember. That’s the one line that pissed me off in the movie–he has no way of knowing how she feels about the baby.

    I like the Netflix edits around Ann Bann much better, including changing her conversation with Maddy, and leaving out the dumb scuba diving scene. I wish they had left in Aafia crying in the car after all the stars falling though–to me that deep cry represents her fully experiencing the hurt from Bauua–going deeper than her anger–to realize that she loves him. They could have cut back to Zeeshan walking out and having the talk with the scientist to learn Bauua is going to Mars–that little addition did make the story flow better.

    In both versions I felt that all the stars falling were both a sign that Bauua was once again worthy of being with Aafia (the difference now being that he also knows that), AND a sign that they are wrapped up in a bigger destiny. He says the line about “the goddess has spoken, now let anyone try to stop me” in both versions.

    Zeeshan’s eye thing/flashlight thing is truly annoying. They could have made the point that he too is “incomplete” in his own way without making him a pratfalling goofball.

    As far as I recall, there is no change in Aafia’s wedding scene. The cute math joke is there. Maddy freaking kills me in this movie. Rumpled professor Maddy and groom Maddy. Oof.

    I think the only change in the ending voice over is cutting off Aafia. His remark about his dimples staying young is in both versions. No idea why they cut “Aafia!!” as other said it ties back to him calling out for her when he wins the dance competition.

    Ultimately, this version didn’t change my interpretation of any of the characters or their arcs. I got where Aafia, Bauua, and Babita were coming from, and why they did what they did, even if I disagreed with their decisions, in the theater version, and my impressions of those things didn’t change while watching the Netflix version. But I was clearly in a minority, even among Shah Rukh fans. I do hope the Netflix version helps a broader audience connect to the movie.

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    • Thank you! I was waiting for your comments.

      I think they did cut that “don’t hate the baby” line, that was another scene where I was bracing myself but I couldn’t remember what for, just like in the gun scene when I forgot the “take the baby” line but was still bracing myself for it. It’s so so much better without those two lines, I think. Or, I guess, the best possible version of the film would have those two lines and then resolve them, make clearer that Anushka really did love the baby and that Shahrukh was wrong. But without adding scenes to do that, better to cut them I think.

      Thank you! It was the scuba diving scene! I was watching the song thinking “this doesn’t feel as long and boring as I remembered”, but I couldn’t figure out why. And I would have put the crying in the car scene after the Zeeshan conversation. So it feels like it is both about the stars falling, and the realization that Shahrukh is going to Mars. Continuing to show her conflict over that decision, both wanting it to happen because she hates him and because it is his fate to go, but not wanting it to happen because she loves him.

      With Maddy, did they add the line about how he loves this mission and Anushka’s mind in their conversation? It felt a lot clearer to me in this edit that Maddy was a nice guy who was not in love with her, that this was a marriage of convenience and common sense and nothing more.

      For me, watching it in theaters, I couldn’t figure out the “right” interpretation, I couldn’t quite follow where the characters were going or why. This edit somehow crystallized all the possible interpretations into one, Anushka and Shahrukh as damaged people who come together to make a greater whole, their love and their baby and the Mars mission all together. And that it was a joint journey for them, not just Shahrukh’s story. I don’t think there was anything in the original version which contradicted that, but there were random things that didn’t fit (like, why did the chimp need motivation?) and distracted from the point and made me think maybe there was something else I should be thinking.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 4:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think they can leave both lines out. And I like your placing of Aafia’s car/crying scene.

        The opening voiceover does frame the movie as Aafia’s as well as Bauua’s, so I guess it’s worth adding.

        After I wrote my comment above, I thought, well, I was actually pretty confused about Aafia’s feelings and motivations on the first watch in the theater. It was on the second watch where her arc made more sense. And many, many people didn’t like it enough for a re-watch.

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        • Yeah, I think I said on my review when asked that I probably would like it slightly better on a second watch, but there was nothing that made me want to watch it a second time. I stand by both those statements, I liked it better on the second watch, but I still didn’t like it enough to actually enjoy watching it and want to watch it. In contrast, I think JHMS was also hard to follow the characters and so on for the first watch, because of how it was structured and written. But the songs and a few other moments were already so joyful and wonderful even without fully grasping the movie that it drove me back to see it a second time, and then a third and fourth. If Zero had more Mere Naam Tu moments, and more moments like that pitch perfect conversation before Bauua leaves the wedding, it might have driven me (and others) back to see it a second time just for those parts and picked up the character details along the way.

          On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 5:20 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yep. I don’t mind Rai’s version of messed up love, so that may have pre-disposed me to liking Zero. I hated the end of TMWR, but I know people like Maddy, always chasing the illusion of true love, no matter who it hurts. So the whole Babita/Bauua/Kapoor-guy dynamic worked for me. That scene where Babita and Bauua are wrestling and she’s insulting him and his “wheelchair ladki” is seriously weird, but I could empathize with both, and in the end, two damaged people helped each other find the healthy path. So, happier than TWMR Returns.

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  5. I disliked this movie so much that I’m extremely reluctant to watch the Netflix version. I can handle bad movies and don’t have any big issue with them but I don’t even know what to say about this one. I find it so unlikeable, frustrating and ultimately mind-numbingly boring. So much happens and yet it feels like nothing is happening and everything is getting dragged out while the clock is marching by. One of my most disliked films out of SRK’s entire career. And to make matters worse, he spent 2 or 3 years on it and is now taking a long break because of it which means we’ve been deprived of anything better that could have been made in all these years. What a waste.
    Now that I look back, I realize I haven’t liked any of Anand Rai’s other films either. I detested the Tanu Weds Manu movies even though they were big hits. I at least managed to finish the first one but the second one was boring me so much, I didn’t get past the 30 minute point. Ranjhana also had the same problem as Zero – the whole second half feels like a different movie. Rai also seems particularly enamored of reviving careers of bad actresses. Unlike others, I think Kangana is a terrible actress also, unless she’s playing mentally ill which is what she is.
    I’m so turned off by Anand Rai that I refuse to watch whatever he makes next. The movies he produces tend to be better but the ones he directs himself… ugh.
    I’m so glad some of you guys liked this movie enough to discuss it. Thank god at least a few people are enjoying it.

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    • Yeah, I feel the same way about Anand. One thing that occurs to me, we all agree more or less that it is an interesting different love story and human story with stupid crazy space stuff on top of it. But I think even the different love story might not work for me, because I don’t like Anand’s stories. Nothing necessarily actively wrong with them, I just don’t like them. The space stuff was just extra things for me to dislike.

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      • Same here. Even without the space angle, I would have detested this movie. He seems to think quirk is added by the female characters being cruel for no reason. It isn’t about having a multifaceted character because they don’t feel like characters at all – just an accumulation of traits thrown together.

        Both Ranjhana and Zero had a similar transformation for the male character. Both losers suddenly become equals to the heroine through unexpected means. In the former, the uneducated loser ends up becoming a brilliant politician and in Zero, the uneducated Bauaa ends up becoming an astronaut. The female characters behave in strange ways – bitter, angry, cruel and it doesn’t really go anywhere.

        The romance is just plain bizarre. Honestly, it would have been more poignant to have Bauaa and Afiya navigating a love/sex scene with their disabilities being what they are especially since they were supposed to produce a baby from it. Instead it cuts away to Bauua taking selfies!! And what was that bathroom and peeing scene? What on earth? There is not enough love and tenderness built up to endure what comes after it.

        It feels more like set pieces than a real story. They knew they wanted beautiful scenes of falling stars, of Salman and dwarf SRK dancing together, an indoor wet Holi, a space center, a VFX chimp with feelings, etc. and then somehow tried to string it all together into a semi-coherent script. It’s not surprising that it just doesn’t work.

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    • Exactly my thoughts! I watch a lot of bad movies, but after watching this one I was so frustrated I felt like screaming (thinking about it now, I had similar reaction after Raanjhanaa too).
      So much happens in Zero, but there was nothing I could take and say: Oh this part is good. I like it (except Katrina’s red suit).

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  6. Also cut: the audition scene where they say, “It’s all about ratings. If he loses people will pity him and if he wins it’ll be terrific!”

    My JHMS references (Which I assume happened because filming was so close together with the same actors, maybe? Alternately, they writers need to quit cribbing and write some new material!)
    First, I had a JHMS flashback during Mere Naam Tu when he and the (awesome) little girl are dancing and he carries her in a wave/Sejal motion. I guess it just struck me this time ‘cause I recently saw that move in the Tamil movie Lakshmi the (awesome) little girl stars in. (I also love her SRK move before he swats her. 🤗).
    At the wedding, it’s still Anushka laughing at him and pointing out that she is out of his league
    Then I noticed during the song Issaqbazzi the lines: “She is a wave and I am water. You are the river. I am the shore. The waves roll my way.”
    *That* made curious, so I looked at the whole song, which I swear HAS to have been written for JHMS. It’s the same lyricist for both songs, too, and he wrote Raula. Issaqbazzi is better in Zero, I’m thinking. Poor unwanted, recycled songs!!
    https://lyricsraag.com/zero-issaqbaazi-lyrics-translation-shah-rukh-khan-salman-khan/
    Other stuff I noticed:
    Oh, this time I caught the original reference to the baby! Aafia says, “If Babita kissed you, I’m carrying Leo DiCaprio’s child.” At least they hinted about her being knocked up ahead of time.
    And Alia Bhatt taking a selfie with the puppet from Paheli. I luff that movie.

    This time the scene at the party with the female actresses made me wonder if it had more meaning than just “Bauua’s not worthy.” Maybe because the first time I saw it I didn’t know Sridevi died? I dunno, but it always bothered me that Bauua so casually “makes the stars fall from the sky” and no one, least of all Bauua, seems to worry about what happened to them. Where’d they go? And then he summons all the women to come with him and they do, and then he can’t perform. The “stars” are already standing behind him. Then, while not exactly *sounding* mean, but being mean anyway, as they walk away they say things like, “Guess you’re not that talented.” “Maybe time next.”
    And then Babita says something to the effect of, “What’s the matter? You’ve never been humiliated in public before?”
    Bauua says, “The stars used to listen to me.”
    Babita replies, “They’re only stars. At least yours listen.”
    And the whole exchange made me feel like SRK’s speech at the critics roast had been fomenting in his head for a while. In light of his comments, that whole bit of dialogue came across as a lot more angry and bitter than it did the first time I saw it.
    I did like this cut better. It helped immensely with my perception of Anushka’s character. I hadn’t really realized how terrible she came off the first time. (Probably ‘cause I’ve got a soft spot for her.)
    They still should have ditched the gun, and the chimp.
    I felt like Maddy seemed less sympathetic this go round.
    The training and the centrifuge stuff (and even the chimp) all made sense to me originally because my dad was an aeronautical engineer and did training for NASA for “extra money for the family because your mother spends money like I got a tree in the backyard.” 🙄 He was supposed to be an astronaut, but my mom wasn’t on board. (Frankly, sending him into space for the first 15 years of my life would have been awesome!) But I was always hearing about how he sat in the centrifuge at USC because he loved us. So funny that was in a Hindi movie and made so much sense to me! Anyhow, because I knew everyone else *hated* it and didn’t get that part, I was prepared to hate it this time, too. Nope. Still made sense. I’m thinking I’m the warped one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What jumped out at me first from your comment was the Leo reference, I was sure it was a bad subtitle issue. So I rewatched the scene and no! She does say Leo! And that is right after Shahrukh refers to her as incompatible with him because she is American. Another layer to their relationship, American versus Indian divides them, but they come together when those boundaries no longer matter, when Shahrukh achieves something international. Heck, you could even say that Anushka is obsessed with stars (space) and so is Shahrukh (movie stars).

      I found Maddy less sympathetic but more logical as a character. He is a nice man, but clearly without any passion in him. At least, not towards Anushka. In the other version when there was at least a hint of emotion towards Anushka, it made no sense that he was casual about canceling their wedding. This time, I felt like it was clear he only cared about her as kind of a mental challenge and intellectual partner, nothing more. Fanfic prompt? Madhavan is surprised by a passionate love affair with an illogical inappropriate partner?

      Have you seen My Name is Khan? That’s a similar film in terms of just too many ideas at once. But whenever I discuss it with folks, everyone has a different thing they love and hate. Every part of the film has at least one person that absolutely loves it, and one that hates it. Anyway, with this film, it is NOT like that. Seems pretty unanimous that folks hate the chimp and the gun and even you don’t exactly LOVE the astronaut training, like it isn’t your favorite part of the film. So strange that everyone felt the same way here and yet no one pointed out those small changes at any point in the writing or filming process.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 7:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • MNIK … WTF the hurricane crap? Yes, I understand it was to highlight the good the the Muslim groups in America do, but it was a terrible way to present it. And, I don’t think the kid needed to die. I felt that it took away from the prejudice that was originally being addressed – blind fear of all Muslim’s by Americans – and added a pity/we’re good they’re bad angle that lessened its impact. A relatively boring movie that hammered the point, “We are just regular people like you!” would have actually been more impactful. Adding a layer of guilt (we are terrible people, one of our own killed one of their children) only served to create a bigger divide, in my opinion. It just bugged me. I have Muslim friends who are literally just like me; that is, none of us has lost a kid due to a racist attack. Sometimes less means more.

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        • Exactly my point! I like the hurricane, and I like that they went that far with the violence. Other stuff I didn’t like, for instance the way the death was treated afterwards (really? The police just stopped investigating the beating death of a small child? What else was there for them to investigate?), but those two things I liked. And I know other people who like them, and other people who agree with you, and then people who hate other parts of the film and other people who love those same other parts.

          Versus this movie, where we all pretty much agree that the chimp has to go.

          On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 8:40 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • It wasn’t the space stuff that I really had an issue with. Generally I love space travel related things but how did Anand Rai end up making it SO boring? How did he take a concept so exciting in itself and make it SO BORING. I still can’t figure it out. The atrocious arguments and boring one-upmanship and choosing the same date for her wedding as the launch of the rocket… barf.

      I also wanted to snap my fingers and make scowling Anushka disappear. She looked like a villainess rolling around the premises and spreading her bad juju everywhere. As uncharitable as it sounds, she was miscast in this movie. Look at how Eddie Redmayne pulled off a similar character and look how pathetic Anushka was. She looked like she was mimicking someone with that disability instead of actually being someone with it.

      To make matters worse, she’s not a good enough actress to make a difficult character like that likeable. That inner vulnerability does not come through and you know you’ve screwed up a love story when the audience doesn’t care if they’re together or not. I would have been happier if Bauaa dumped her and took his daughter and left.

      This is coming from someone who likes Anushka but she was in over her head. The story was poorly written to begin with and then adding such a bad performance to it derailed it further. I’m so irritated with her that it’s making it hard to watch her even in other movies right now.

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  7. One of my theories about Zero: they wanted to make a love triangle about people who were lacking in these specific ways, and show the emotional journey of how coming together and apart and together helps each character find completeness. But in order to make that a big screen movie that lots of people would watch rather than an art film curiosity, they needed a big screen hook, and that’s where the space ships came in. But the space ships were never going to be a realistic version of space travel because that would be a different story, so we ended up in this magical realism, Bauua shoots down stars and travels to Mars to prove his love, place. Guessing space + Bauua special effects hooked SRK, and SRK hooked all the other actors plus the money. It still could have worked, but once a project grows to that size from a simple, quirky love story, you need a clear artistic vision for how to fit all the pieces together, and you need to be able to hold fast to that vision through two years of complex, high stakes filming. That’s really hard, and they didn’t quite pull it off. But there is a lot of good material, even if a few of the joints are creaky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is all making me really want to write a serious discussion/analysis post on Zero. My reviews were more about covering the film so people could decide whether or not they wanted to see it, whether or not it worked as a film. But we have moved past that now, the film is what it is and we have all had a chance to watch it, maybe time for a place for those kinds of big picture discussions?

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 7:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • Please do! There is a lot to talk about. And my sense is there is some consensus on details but not on bigger character and plot points, plenty to debate/discuss.

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      • And if I could add a request: craving a deeper dive into Zero as the latest in a series (with Fan, JHMS) deconstructing his star persona. I agree but so curious to hear your thoughts and the comments section weigh in. Where is this going? Where is he taking us?

        Liked by 1 person

    • He should keep trying out of the box things but he needs to be more mindful of the quality. I feel like SRK listens to a one line synopsis and jumps in without heed to what that will entail for the full 2 or 3 hours.

      My other fervent wish is that he stops using VFX on his body. Why is the VFX centered around changing his face and body? It creates an uncanny valley sensation and people feel really weird and uncomfortable watching these characters. Please use the VFX on world building instead. Or use it in action and war settings. Set a movie in the future with the requisite vfx or set it in the past and recreate old civilizations. There are other things you can do. Please stop messing with your face and body. Nobody really likes this.

      Liked by 2 people

        • I mean.. they could have made Zero into a low budget movie by hiring a dwarf actor and just making it that way. The space stuff could have easily been removed and nothing would have been lost in terms of storytelling. SRK could have produced it. What was the need to make himself into a dwarf? Who even came up with this idea?! Everyone in the room must have been high when they greenlighted this movie.

          At least for Fan, the VFX makes sense because the story doesn’t work without it. Zero is a pointless indulgence.

          I think he wants to look different because he feels he doesn’t get taken seriously as an actor when he looks like himself. There has to be a physical transformation so that people forget its SRK. But there are better ways to do this! Wear a fat suit, shave your head and go bald, have a make-up artist reshape your eyebrows and straighten them, or sport gray hair… There are a lot of methods to make people see a character instead of SRK. But stop the crazy VFX. The dwarf character looks so unreal in spite of the VFX being good – it made me itch from discomfort. I bet just the weirdness of it all was one big reason why many people did not even want to give this movie a try.

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          • The gadget girl geek in me loves the the VFX stuff, though. I get SRK’s a) fascination with the tech stuff and b) his desire to have Indian cinema be just as good or better than anything in Hollywood. Competitive spirit and all that.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s kind of what I meant by how you make a big screen movie out of a love story with these characters, though. How many people go to see this movie without big stars in it? Not that it’s a reason by itself to make the movie, or a guarantee that it will be worthwhile, but it adds to the ambition and heart of the project for me.

    Agree with Cat that I admire this part of SRK, where he’s trying to solve the problem of how you get people – hopefully in multiple countries – into the theaters to watch a movie, not by rehashing established formulas but by trying to make something original. (Thanks for sharing the review, my sentiments too.)

    And even so…yes, Anonymous, he does pick some high concept projects that don’t have the execution in the writing or making that they need to pull off the crazy idea at the center. I wish he would hire his own personal script doctor to ensure base level quality and coherence, but he seems to have too much respect for the director’s vision to meddle on that level.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I vote yes for a scene by scene analysis, or at least one analysis for each third of the film.

    Could it be that Anand L Rai is actually not a very good director? I haven’t seen Raanjnaa(sp?), I thought TWM1 was reasonably well made and cohesive, giving me a story that unfolded in front of me reasonably well, but TWM2 was pointless aside from showcasing Kangana’s performance as Dutto. I don’t really know what that movie was other than “couple in a bad marriage splits and hubby goes for wife’s younger lookalike”. He might be better at grand ideas than at cohesive vision & storytelling.

    Add me to those who vote guns (and maybe chimps) “off the island”. Adding the gun to the prologue scene makes it less random at the midpoint, but I don’t understand the value-add of the gun to the movie in the first place. The gun in theater scene recalled for me Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway, and made me think the movie was taking a farcical or comedy-noire turn.
    I understand the chimp a little better – when I first saw aafia with the chimp, I thought “oh that’s why bauaa is a midget, he’s chimp sized, so he’ll eventually replace the chimp”. With just Mars Idol and no chimp, it’s less clear why they spent two years of vfx work to make srk into a dwarf, when they could have developed a simpler-to-implement deformity or handicap. Or even something actor-y and nonvfx like aafia’s condition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Aanand L Rai is good at small scenes and bringing out interesting performances in his actors, but his movies just don’t seem to come together as whole things. And throwing more money at them just makes it worse.

      On Tue, May 28, 2019 at 11:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I was thinking they could have replaced the gun just with Aafia picking up a paperweight or something and beaning Bauua with it. If they were so desperate for a joke there, the joke could be that she was so mad that she hit him with the paperweight despite her hands shaking, rather than missing him with the gun because of her hands shaking. Then the opening of the Netflix version could still have her being mad and stressed with a voiceover, and left out any kind of projectile weapon. 🙂

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      • I like that idea! the gun just doesn’t work for the level of tension they wanted in that moment and how quickly it disperses.

        Have you seen Kaminey? There is a very similar moment in that one when a furious woman picks up a gun, but actually works. For one thing, she is in a gangster hide out so we know there are guns around and she is grabbing one impulsively, it doesn’t have to be strangely planned. And everyone reacts as they would be expected to react when an angry woman is holding a gun, it’s not just the person she is aiming at that is alarmed.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I like the paperweight idea, esp since it makes sense as a spontaneous instrument.

          Good point about “how quickly it disperses”. Usually unless it’s a farce, once a gun is introduced, the scene almost always becomes about the gun, at least for the next couple of minutes. In this movie, the gun disappears as quickly as it appears, both from the scene and from the characters’ minds. It was completely odd.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I just finished watching the blu-ray of Zero and it corresponds to your account of the netflix edit.
    I guess this is the definitive edit of this film now.

    Like

    • How interesting! And without any publicity or discussion, they are just assuming no one will watch both the theatrical and streaming versions, or care if they do.

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 5:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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