Nothing Short Of A Miracle: Why I Absolutely Loved ‘Zero’

SPOILER ALERT

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:

#1
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.

#2
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.

#3
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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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