What if a writer wants to say that the average Indian male is a privileged upper caste Hindu with a small town mindset.
Think Meerut. Just 70 kms outside the capital but representative of most of India. He slaps people with money. Not his own.
He might have his short comings (say height, for example, let’s say he’s 4 foot 6 inches) but he will still want a girl out of his league – she either has to be the smartest hot person in the world (a rocket scientist) or a Katrina Kaif, just the hottest movie star ever.
He is an asshole. To pretty much everyone including his best friend. He loves only himself.
He has learnt enough from Bollywood movies to charm women saying the cheesiest things and in a fantasy world (like a Bollywood mainstream film – he could make her believe in the magic of shooting stars because what’s more romantic than star gazing), he might be able to con the smartest hot girl in the world to sleep with him (possibly because of her physical inability to have a social life and her limited options of men who don’t see beyond her disability).
But he can’t take on responsibility.
The modern Indian lover is a commitment phobe.
Back in 1998, this romance hero would have said: One life, one love.
Today’s hero is a fuckboi. He runs from marriage.
What kind of a lover is he really?
Is he a hero? Or a Zero?
Is it possible for him to redeem himself from being such a humongous asshole?
How can you possibly redeem him?
First, we need a woman, ideally who seems like all beauty and no brains – the movie star type – to give him a reality check. To make him think he’s important for a bit only to
show him his place in the world.
She kicks him. And also her commitment phobic on and off ex. Because Men are from Mars.
After it’s established that he really can’t charm every woman with the same cheesy trick. All those women who have seen similar tricks over the ages (how cool would it be if you could get those women the Indian loverboy hero has romanced onscreen) would not fall for this guy with his rehearsed, tired act of making shooting stars fall.
Our Zero now realises he needs the one girl who once believed he was capable of magic. Except that she doesn’t anymore.
She hasn’t forgiven him and would never be able to.
She has other hot South Indian rocket scientists wanting to marry her and is busy breaking new ground at work.
Her team tells her even monkeys are showing affinity to family but not her ex. He seems like the ideal candidate for space travel.
Our Zero, being the Bollywood hero he is, believes that she won’t let him go… though he agrees to go to Mars if she would rather marry the obviously more qualified guy. He’s made her believe in shooting stars again but she’s not an emotional fool to fall for it again.
She’s the boss. She wants to see if he really wants to atone and make up. She almost marries the more eligible guy but this is the guy she had a baby with – things are a bit complicated.
We are still watching a Bollywood fantasy. So she gives him a second chance. Yes, I’ll wait for you, she says.
Men are from Mars? Go back where you came from then. I’ll wait till you have paid a price big enough to redeem yourself. I’m not letting you get away with a Sorry.
What an ending!
Now the makers (Director Anand L Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma) get Shah Rukh Khan to play the modern lover, gets gender politics bang on within the realm of the Bollywood musical fantasy. The filmmaker who loves the colour of the mainstream cinema and the tech team embrace the madness with an earnest self aware sense of commitment towards the genre.
The genre where everything is exaggerated.
Our Zero could have been poor, lower caste or made fun of and been in love with another short girl and had ordinary dreams but this isn’t a film going for realism. It’s going for fantasy. The most audacious kind.
So Zero comes back safe after a 15 year exile from Mars.
A lesser life sentence could not have redeemed this asshole.
Yes, the heroine got the math right.