Movie Review: Zed Plus

November 28, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

One of the reasons whyA photo taken from the official Facebook page of "Zed Plus" Adil Hussain took the lead role in Director Chandra Prakash Dwivedi‘s “Zed Plus” (a play on ‘Z-plus security’, the highest level of security provided by the government to VIPs barring the prime minister) was that he felt it was a rare and sensible Bollywood script.

A satirical look at contemporary India and its problems such as class divide, poverty and unwieldy coalition politics, the film is built upon a promising idea, but its lack of depth and artistic finesse leaves it light years behind other movies in the genre such as “Peepli Live”, “Welcome to Sajjanpur” and even “Phas Gaye Re Obama”.

Frazzled by the demands of nagging political allies and a troublesome neighbouring country, the prime minister (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) heads to a Sufi shrine in a small town called Fatehpur in Rajasthan, a visit to which is believed to fulfill a person’s most heartfelt desire. The high-profile visit has the biggest impact on the life of Aslam, the shrine’s part-time caretaker who repairs tyres for a living.

After an interpreter-mediated conversation – Aslam can only speak Hindi while the prime minister can’t understand a word of it – a misunderstanding on the prime minister’s part leads him to grant Aslam Z-plus security cover. From here on, the movie is all about how Aslam and those around him deal with their loss of privacy and Aslam’s new-found status as a local celebrity due to an almost claustrophobic level of security around him.

The movie gets off to an inauspicious start with a singularly unnecessary, out-of-place dance routine by Hrishitaa Bhatt. Soon enough, almost as if to prove how closely the film mirrors reality and how clued-up on current affairs its makers are, you see, in quick succession, a shrill politician called Samata Banerjee, a finance minister who dresses like P. Chidambaram and a news reporter with a ridiculous surname (Rangrasia) that rhymes with that of a fairly popular, real-life Indian journalist. Things begin to appear like they are straight out of a school skit and remain so for the rest of the movie.

It’s also hard to wrap your head around the basic premise of the story even if it’s supposed to be satire that must, by definition, rely on exaggeration to make a point. The logic-defying decision of the PM’s close confidante and seasoned bureaucrat to mobilise an entire team of trained commandos for one man due to a miscommunication instead of clarifying things is bound to cause a waste of public resources and a potential PR nightmare.

The idea of providing Z-plus security to your quintessential aam aadmi (common man) is essentially funny and workable; Dwivedi only had to try a bit harder to tighten the script to make things appear less illogical. Sadly, he doesn’t.

Another drawback of the film is that it lacks a truly likeable main protagonist. It’s hard to sympathise with Aslam even in his most difficult moments, perhaps because his most difficult moments are nothing more grave than the inability to smoothly continue with his extra-marital affair. In a particularly bizarre scene, Aslam says “he’s a man of religion” when a security officer offers him a drink, but in the very next sentence requests that he be allowed to slip out of his home for a midnight rendezvous with his lover.

Adil Hussain, the actor best remembered for his portrayal of Sridevi’s good-at-heart but thoughtless husband in “English Vinglish”, is occasionally funny but largely unremarkable as Aslam. Mona Singh gets under the skin of her character as his devoted, principled, and easily deceived wife Hamida. Mukesh Tiwari is amusing as Aslam’s neighbour who turns charmingly poetic and boorishly vulgar depending on his mood and the situation. Sanjay Mishra doesn’t disappoint in his role as the cheapskate Pakistani militant who takes Aslam’s claim of receiving a threat from across the border as a personal insult and decides to teach him a lesson.

“Zed Plus” isn’t a frighteningly boring or stupid movie; it has its moments and most actors manage to effectively carry their roles. But the film is marred by a conspicuous absence of logic at crucial points. It remains, till the end, just marginally more engaging than your average Bollywood flick.

(Editing by David Lalmalsawma; Follow Anupriya on Twitter @anupriyakumar and David @davidlms25  | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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