Exactly 61 days from the time that you will be reading this ‘Zero’ will unfold in front of all of us. After ‘Agneepath’ (1990), I doubt if any other movie has had so much of it riding on it for a superstar and here is a negative fact for all Shah Rukh Khan fans – ‘Agneepath’, despite being loved and achieving a cult status over the years had bombed at the box office. The striking similarities between ‘Agneepath’ and ‘Zero’ don’t end at just the fact that both have or had a big iconic superstar’s last bet riding on it; both had the superstar playing an unheard trick on the audience.
In ‘Agneepath’ Amitabh changed his voice – apparently, the character was heavily inspired by one Manya Surve, who had a similar raspy voice. Audiences hated it. They were used to that clear deep throated booming voice and the new dialogue delivery killed the impact, most of the times they found it difficult what Amitabh was saying and the movie failed.
A very few would know that within two weeks the makers realised the mistake and had Amitabh’s original voice installed but in those days of unchecked video piracy and violence genre on the decline the damage was done. In ‘Zero’, SRK is playing a man of short stature. It is a huge gamble and there is a huge risk. There is a certain section of SRK fans, who brand him as a classy guy and have a certain image of him in mind, a short size SRK in a colourful “kachcha” is not exactly what they might like.
There is another factor, which goes against such “last bet” movies. More often than not everyone involved, given what is riding on such movies tends to do more than needed. The end result ends up being too intense and too good, sometimes ahead of its times. ‘Agneepath’ (1990), is an example of all of this. ‘Zero’ could suffer from its own intensity.
Now, that I have given you all the negatives, there is a big positive which can negate all the history and all the negatives that I have written above. The movie is helmed by Aanand L Rai, who seems to know what the audiences want. Even in his most dull phase, David Dhawan could bring a ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’ out of Amitabh because he knew his audiences’ pulse then. Aanand L Rai is a storyteller, who knows his art and his audiences. ‘Zero’ is his story as much as it has SRK’s reputation connected with it.
The larger question is totally different. Should we judge SRK only by the box office result of ‘Zero’? We all agree that if ‘Zero’ does not do as well at the box office as it is expected to then we can safely assume that the SRK rule at the box office has come to an end. Will that negates the immense track record SRK has on the table till date?
In fact, has SRK by his own silence on the matter not allowed too much to get added to the box office fate of just one of his movies?
Can we deny SRK’s contribution to Indian cinema with the fact that post ‘Happy New Year’ his movies have gone steadily downhill at the box office?
Do we judge SRK on his successes or failures?
As it happens with all achievers sometimes their failures are also as spectacular as their achievements. The fact that we anticipate or wait for either of it to happen in itself is an indication of what such men or women have done. The fact that in his last innings Bradman went out with a duck did not diminish the fact that he was a batsman par excellence.
In fact, did Amitabh suddenly go invisible after ‘Agneepath’? No, he did not. Champions find a way around the stumbling block. So, will SRK, assuming ‘Zero’ fails. If it does not, it will be business as usual and we will have one media house falling over the other to celebrate the victory. Given what SRK has covered in life till date, for some of us ‘Zero’ is just another SRK movie releasing so let us cut the pressure away from it.