The Zoya Factor Review (SPOILERS): A Rom-Com With a Heroine Who Loves Too Much

Don’t worry about spoiling yourself. It’s a rom-com, it’s only gonna end one way. It’s not about the surprises, it’s about enjoying the journey. Read this review, don’t read it, I don’t care.

Whole plot in one paragraph:

Sonam is a lackey at an advertising agency, sent on a shoot in Sri Lanka for a Pepsi ad with the Indian Cricket Tea. She is clumsy and awkward and Dulquer, the captain of the team, is amused and charmed by her. He invites her to eat breakfast with the team and she casually says that she was good luck for her brother when she ate breakfast with him before his matches. The team wins the next match and credits her luck. Angad Bedi is the jealous former captain of the team, he encourages the idea that it is her luck rather than Dulquer’s leadership which is helping them. Dulquer asks Sonam on a date, and then backs off when he starts hearing the “luck” stories. But feels bad and tracks her down at her father’s house back in Delhi and they start dating, falling in love very very fast and joyfully. The cricket commission offers Sonam a job being the “lucky mascot” for the team, she decides to turn it down. But Angad finds a work around by insisting she work on his ad campaign with her agency, she still travels with the team. Dulquer and Sonam are more and more in love, the team is sneaking around trying to get luck from her. And then Angad decides to break them up and gives Sonam video (as suggested by a female reporter) of Dulquer first hearing the “luck” rumors and having a conversation about maybe getting rid of Sonam by romancing her into turning down the “lucky mascot” job. Sonam breaks up with him, sure he was only using her, and signs on as the Mascot after all. Her life immediately turns into a circus of press attention and ad campaigns and craziness. She finally realizes the damage she is doing, making the world believe in luck instead of hard work and refuses to go to the final game of the world cup to prove the team can win on their own. Dulquer leads the team to victory (while protesters wait outside Sonam’s house), and afterwards he comes to Sonam’s house and romantically declares his love and they are back together.

This is a particular kind of rom-com heroine which I honestly cannot remember seeing before in Indian film. And I am delighted! Sonam is playing the kind of woman who loves too much, who is “easy”. That’s her flaw, as she sees it and as the world sees it. She isn’t classy, she isn’t good at playing games, she isn’t good at hiding her feelings. Oh, and she has sex. That’s what makes these characters different, really really different. For a woman, sex is a gesture of love and trust and desire and all of that. And it’s also something that says “I love you so much I don’t care what the world will think of my actions”. In Indian film, the standard procedure is that the heroine resists falling in love as much as possible, because even that (just having the emotion) is seen as “wrong” according to society and a betrayal of her role as a good woman. Once she does fall in love, love is a kind of joyless thing. It is about loyalty and suffering and patience and suicide. It’s not about butterflies in the stomach and sweet kisses at night and falling into bed and fireworks. The men get that, the woman pay the price. But in this film, Sonam’s character gets the fireworks too.

When she meets Dulquer, he is attracted by her sincerity and openness and warmth. And just general messy realness. When he asks her out on a date, she can’t conceal her big smile. When he breaks the date, she is upset and reveals that she overcharged her father’s credit card to buy a new dress (revealing both that she cared enough to buy a new dress and that she has to use her father’s card). At the end of their first date, a drive through the city together, she impulsively hugs him and then is embarrassed. For their second date, he reveals he is being followed by paparazzi so she invites him for a dinner in, alone in her house with her family gone. And they joyfully have sex. Again and again and again. Flirting in hallways, stealing kisses, cuddling in hotel bedrooms. There is no guilt, but there is an awareness of…diving into dangerous waters? Dulquer loves her more because this sort of jumping in to bed without calculation or caring about consequences is new for him. And Sonam’s brother is worried about her because he knows she can be hurt if it backfires. But she is happy, the sex is great, the flirtation is great, he makes her happy and makes her feel special, this is the good part of love, why not enjoy it? Of course when it all falls apart, that’s what makes it hurt more. Or, no, hurt different I guess. There’s no regrets, no things left unsaid or undone, but there is that feeling that he only saw her as “easy” not as a person.

There are a lot of rom-coms in India and elsewhere that are about the “simple” “average” girl who attracts the special man. Obvious wish fulfillment angle there. But adding in the “simple” “average” girl who isn’t afraid to fall into bed on the first date is different. That’s saying “don’t feel bad for giving in to what you want, don’t feel bad for trusting your gut, don’t feel less than just because you forget yourself for one moment and stop being a good girl”. Because that’s the “average” thing too, even if most women don’t talk about it. Because in this area, being “average” is somehow all bad.

Now, that’s my favorite part! The happy happy sex all the time being in love euphoria that hits them both, feeling totally in tune because you both just want to be together all the time and kiss and make love and be happy. My second favorite part is how it handles the last section when Sonam’s “luck” becomes public knowledge. Like an average girl, Sonam can’t help enjoying being dressed up and photographed and talked about. She goes into it out of anger at Dulquer, but that doesn’t mean she won’t enjoy it while it is happening. And since she is enjoying it, the film is allowed to be a bit frivolous and silly in this section as well, veering over to the realm of black comedy just a hint with how it makes fun of fans and media.

My least favorite part is how it glances past issues which, in a longer deeper movie, might have been more fully explored. Like, the effect on our heroine of being raised in a mostly male environment (army brat with a dead mother and an older brother). Or why exactly she wants to work in advertising. Or, most of all, an exploration of the non-luck ways she helps the team. The film makes a point to show how she gives a suggestion to Dulquer which he passes on to a bowler while they are dating, and later gives a suggestion directly to another player while she is spending time with the team because she is “lucky”. Both of them are based on knowing and caring about the people involved, not any knowledge of sports but also not any kind of “luck”. I want to know more about that, how she became a person with that kind of understanding of people, and how she could use it in other situations besides being a “lucky charm”. It’s almost related to why Dulquer falls in love with her, that kind of open warm inability to be anyone but herself, but also a little more.

On the other hand, what I greatly enjoy is how the film never fully answers the question of if she is “lucky”, because ultimately the message is that it doesn’t matter. Maybe the team felt more confident because they believed in her. Maybe she really did have some kind of lucky power. Maybe the power grew in her because they believed in her. But no matter what it was, the point is to not believe in luck at all. Luck is chancy and uncertain, hardwork and skill get you what you want in life. And in love, Zoya and Dulquer get together not because she is “lucky” and not because it is fate, but because they both took a leap and went all in, right from the start.

14 thoughts on “The Zoya Factor Review (SPOILERS): A Rom-Com With a Heroine Who Loves Too Much

  1. This was a fun movie! Though, I really wish they went with someone other than Sonam…she was okay…but just couldn’t do justice to the wonderful character written in the book…a younger Preity Zinta would have been great!

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  2. I just finished Zoya Factor and I love it SO much. I am one of the few people that find Sonam so damn charming! The chemistry between Dulquer and Soman was wonderful!! I loved that the attraction was so mutual. They were equally into each other right from the beginning. That is so rare. Also, I enjoyed that subtle feminist messages. For example, when Dulquer complains about his ex gfs Sonam automatically takes their side.

    The only kind of criticism I have is that I couldn’t help wonder what the movie would have been with Fawad as originally planned. Dulquer was so very charming but there is some innate chemistry between Fawad and Sonam that I wish the audiance could have seen again.

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    • Oh, I forgot about that potential casting! Yeah, Fawad would have brought out that “cool sophisticated dude, mess up young woman” feeling in spades.

      So glad you like it! I love that feeling of watching a movie that just makes you happy. And that mutual sexual attraction and joy was so delightful, and rare.

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      • I kept comparing the texting scene in Zoya to the one in Zindagi Gulzar Hai and I just think Fawad would have rocked it. Also, toward the end during the more serious scenes, I felt like the Sonam and Dulqeer chemistry faltered a bit but I felt like the serious, tortured scenes in Khoobsoorat were my favorite.

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