Movie Review: Zero (2018)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy/rent the movie at Amazon or iTunes

Zero is a disaster for many reasons, but its biggest problem is that director Aanand L. Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma failed to realize that their film’s hero is a horrible person.

So why didn’t they notice that their creation, Bauua (Shah Rukh Khan), is an irredeemable prick? The filmmaking duo has a history of writing male leads who don’t respect the women they claim to love, like Kundan in Raanjhanaa and Manu in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. There’s also the assumption that Khan’s massive fanbase will automatically project their love for him onto his character, no matter who the character is or what he does.

Mostly they were blinded by the Zero‘s central conceit: using computer generated effects and film techniques similar to those used in the Lord of the Rings movies to shrink a superstar actor. Zero was never about the struggles of a man with dwarfism. If it were, they’d have at least gone through the pretext of casting a little person for the lead role. (Same goes for Anushka Sharma’s role as a woman with cerebral palsy.) This was always about spending a budget fives times as large as the filmmaking duo had previously worked with on fancy special effects and an expensive cast, trusting in those effects and stars to bring people to the theater — regardless of whether the movie was any good or not.

Other than his diminutive stature, nothing differentiates Bauua from any number of Bollywood male leads who believe their gender entitles them to anything they want. As the son of a rich father (played by Tigmanshu Dhulia), Bauua has coasted through life on Dad’s dime since dropping out of school in the tenth grade. Now aged 38 — Khan is 53, by the way — that means Bauua has spent twenty years doing absolutely nothing.

Nevertheless, he confidently turns down all the potential brides chosen by the matchmaker (played by Brijendra Kala) until he spots a photo of Aafia (Anushka Sharma). Bauua is initially turned off by the tremors caused by Aafia’s cerebral palsy, but he decides her use of a wheelchair makes them more-or-less equal. Never mind that he’s a high school dropout and she’s a world-renowned rocket scientist.

Bauua’s defining moment is his response to being rejected by Aafia after a presumptuous proposal in front of a bunch of elementary school students. Bauua shows up at a press conference to publicly humiliate Aafia, stating that while she may be able to lead a mission to Mars, she can’t pick up the pen he just dropped on the ground. Pleased with himself, he walks away, only to hear a commotion behind him as Aafia crawls on the ground and lifts the pen.

What Bauua does is unforgivable, yet Aafia immediately forgives him and their love blossoms. Aafia’s inexplicable forgiveness of Bauua is a clear example of Bollywood’s desperate need for female storytellers. Rai & Sharma aren’t done humiliating Aafia yet, as Bauua ditches her to take his shot with the country’s sexiest actress, Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif, in the movie’s only role with any semblance of believable humanity).

After the intermission break, Zero goes full bonkers. Bauua replaces a chimpanzee training for a space mission (which is totally not insulting to little people or anything).

I’m not sure if it’s an intentional homage, but Zero has a lot of parallels to my favorite So-Bad-It’s-Good movie: Gunda. Both have a monkey and a baby that shows up out of nowhere. Vengeful Bauua frequently speaks in movie lines, Gunda‘s Bulla in couplets. There are montages that make no geographical sense, as when Bauua spends a song stumbling through Times Square, downtown Orlando, and Huntsville, Alabama — all of which are supposed to be the same place, apparently. Zero‘s opening dream sequence even reminded me of the scene in Gunda where Bulla’s sister is raped.

All of which is to say, Zero is a terrible movie. The only reason it merits even a half-a-star rating is because Katrina Kaif is so damned good in her role. The rest of the movie is a trash fire.


25 thoughts on “Movie Review: Zero (2018)

  1. Gos Gos

    Oh dear looks like you were generous with your 0.5 star. Maybe this should have been your first 0/4 review? The trailer looked bad to me & after your review I will give this a miss. Thanks & Happy New Year.

    Eagerly awaiting your top 10 of 2018 post.

  2. Thank You

    Thank you for your review. There is little I have read from the reviewer community that contradicts what you report. This will save me time and money which I can expend on other activities.

    Between Race 3, this film and “Thugs …” (none of which I have watched or intend to) it appears that the prominent stars of commercial Bollywood have failed in the entertainment market this year. A brief look on Wikipedia indicates that future commercial offerings are underwhelming, with the possible exception of Kesari (mostly because it is based on a dramatic event that is suitable of picturizing heroism). [Sigh].

    If commercial Bollywood is going to benchmark itself against commercial Hollywood this season, that is idiocy, what with 5 American “super-hero” films playing in the U.S. this Christmas season, in addition to a version of Mary Poppins. Both industries will be dismissed by a paying audience till they change their behavior. [Another sigh, this one laced with pity].


    1. Kathy

      Thanks, TY! Maybe in the future, the big stars should ask Ayushmann Khurrana for help selecting projects, since he seems to have found the winning formula this year.

      1. Thank You

        You’re welcome, Kathy. Considering Mr. A. Khurrana’s last six releases are Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Meri Pyaari Bindu, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Andhadhun, and Badhaai Ho, he may be time-constrained to offer advice given that production level. The Bollywood stars, ergo, have the option of approaching Mr. R. Rao or Mr. P. Tripathi since their relative production levels increase the likelihood of getting an audience and hopefully some wisdom.

        I figuratively ran off to watch the new Mary Poppins earlier today, with a partner-in-crime, seeking refuge from domestic drudgery. It was a fool’s errand. I now have anecdotal evidence that Hollywood and Bollywood stars are competing in an epic battle of the losers, something my worst instincts suspected a year ago. The aforementioned partner now holds a concurrent opinion.

        In the meantime, the lesser known stars in both industries are creating undisputedly watchable cinema so as to make the big budget performers run out of excuses. Consider, the last two years:

        In Hollywood –
        Mr. J. Renner’s Wind River
        Mr. K. Reeves’s John Wick sequel
        Ms. C. Theron’s Atomic Blonde

        In Bollywood –
        Ms. K. Sanon’s Bareilly ki Barfi
        Mr. A Khurrana’s Andhadhun, among numerous other pieces of work.
        Mr. S. Malhotra’s A Gentleman
        Mr. A. Khanna’s Ittefaq remake

        Imagine three year ago the mockery an opiner would face if said opiner articulated that Mr. Sanon and Mr. Malhotra would separately be in two of the few worthwhile movies that will be imminently made in Bollywood. I would not dispute that the speculated level of mockery would be on par with the reported mockery faced by supporters of a couple of right-of-center political campaigns, that shall be not explicitly mentioned here, that occurred over the same period in two English-speaking Western polities. I am meandering again, but the point I am making is that this is how much the mighty have fallen [apologies for the hack phrase], and in the abence of evidence to the contrary based on what’s in both the Bollywood and Hollywood pipelines, deservedly so.


          1. Thank You.

            Thank you, once again, for your kind words and for the quality content you have published on this website this year. Happy New Year to you, your husband, your friends and family.


  3. Dan

    Thank you! Finally a good review. This was exactly my thought too. Why on earth should I root for Bauua? He’s a horrendous person and so many other things in the film that defies logic. Worst Bollywood film I’ve seen in a while.

  4. NCKat

    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.

    1. Kathy

      I really struggled with whether or not I should even review this, NCKat. Just from the trailer, it seemed like an obvious failure from a disabled representation and casting standpoint. Watching the movie confirmed those suspicions. You can tell it was never written with the intent of casting a little person or someone with cerebral palsy in the lead roles, even though there’s nothing in the movie that would’ve precluded someone with either condition from playing the part. (And it’s not like Hichki, where Rani held a press conference with the teacher with Tourette Syndrome on whose book the story is based.) This was always a star vehicle for disability drag, which is gross. My only hope — vain as it is — is that the movie turned out differently from what Shah Rukh and Anushka thought they were signing up for. Even still, I’m disappointed in both of them for opting into this project.

  5. MVP

    Not that I’ve read all the reviews for ‘Zero’, but yours seems be the only honest one – no equivocation whatsoever. Thanks!

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  7. Nisha

    I watched a video of an Australian guy a few weeks ago who puts Indian film reviews on YouTube saying that the trailer of ‘Zero’ feels like those fake movie trailers we see in the beginning of Tropic Thunder. I haven’t seen the movie nor do I think I ever will. But judging by your review, he was on point. My God, what were they smoking when they were writing this film? And how could someone like Anushka sharma even accept doing this movie after reading the script?

    1. Kathy

      My only hope is that Anushka made A LOT of money that she can put back into her own production house to make better films. πŸ˜‰

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