I loved Zero.
There, I said it. You are probably judging me. I did too – as the notes of ‘Mere naam tu’ soared, I felt the sinking feeling of falling in love with what I had most determinedly decided I was going to despise.
Yes, the film has many problems and there were many irresponsible dialogues in the three-hour long saga. And people are right when they say the film is unbelievable – it is supposed to be. Zero is about a vertically challenged man whose dreams are as big as anyone else’s. Why shouldn’t they be?
Peel back the entertainment to see how proudly Zero celebrates absurdities – and that is only partly why the film won my affection. It’s a film that can either leave each of us with something or nothing at all – like a real-life romance does.
Sample these sequences from the popularly hated second-half:
Bauua ran away from Aafia and his family on the day of his wedding and has been superstar Babita Kumari’s close aide for a year. But amidst the glamour that he has chased all his life, Bauua realises he wants Aafia more. To get back to her, he has to leave Babita’s side and this world that shares his love for a spectacle. But how does Bauua leave something that he abandoned everything else for? He challenges Babita’s pride and delusions, inciting her to humiliate him and throw him out. He compels her to reduce him to nothing, much like how Babita saw him on the dark road in Meerut where she rebelliously kissed an inconsequential man – the same man that Aafia had almost married. Babita (played magnificently by Katrina Kaif, who might have done a character justice for the first time in her career) obliges and severs all strings of attachment, setting Bauua free.
Bauua realises that he’s lost much more than whom he loves and destroyed by Aafia’s loathing, he roams around the neon-lit US city as if in a dream, stripping himself down layer by layer – his expensive watch in a violin player’s case, his coat to a homeless person till he’s robbed of all his belongings in a dark alley. Beaten, bleeding and down to his underwear, Bauua finds himself in the bustling city square. There he looks around, smiles and starts dancing like everyone’s watching. Then Bauua sets about restoring himself – for Bauua is incomplete without his page 3-ready look. He reverses his movements through the city, collecting everything he had lost and given away. At the end of the sequence, Bauua emerges whole. He turns his guilt and grief into a purpose – of winning his love back. He has the clarity of someone who has built themselves up from nothing.
And that’s what Zero said to me. If you find the courage to change your decision, you might find yourself with nothing – at point zero. And that might be where you find yourself – where you find everything. A miracle.
Bauua has a trick up his sleeve – every time he waves a hand across the night sky and counts back from ten to zero, a star falls. After he betrays Aafia, Bauua discovers that he has lost the ability in an embarrassing incident. Babita Kumari pokes him by saying that he might have broken someone’s heart. True to her instinct, Bauua only regains his magic once he’s reunited with Aafia. But his magic emerges as strong as him now. Bauua transforms the landscape with a thousand shooting stars – an elaan of his love.
#4 and 5
There is a beautifully quiet moment in the film. Aafia is in the control room of the space centre while Bauua is sitting in an isolated deck overhead, still, as if in wait. Aafia looks up at him and silently gestures to him to change his decision of going to space and risking his life. A subdued Bauua, with tears making his eyes gleam instead of the usual mischief, gestures back for her to change her decision of marrying someone else. Both remain resolute. On the day of the space mission’s launch, Aafia realises she is making a mistake and leaves her wedding to go back to the space centre. With every step that Bauua takes to get the spaceship ready to take him away and prove his worthiness, Aafia moves closer to him. She reaches in time. As they share words over the intercom, it is clear that if Bauua quits the mission, he will get his happy ending with Aafia. But he decides to not go back on his commitment. If he does, he wouldn’t be able to level the ground with Aafia – and it is a story of love between equals. So, with another life-changing countdown, Bauua leaves for Mars – as his love waits for him on Earth.
It’s a story about fantasies and love, about discovering yourself and your limitations, about finding more than yourself. Zero is a love story that’s like any other SRK love story. But it’s also a film that surpasses any of his other romances – because of its absurdities, its outlandishness, its courage and its belief that anything is possible.