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Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Zoya Factor review: Dulquer Salmaan hits it out of the park

For a rom-com which needs to be light on its feet, hitting fours and sixes as it goes along, the writing is not as supple as it should have been. Too many slog overs here.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Updated: September 21, 2019 5:46:58 am
The Zoya Factor review The Zoya Factor movie review: It is Dulquer Salmaan, sufficiently snarky and gooey-eyed in turns, who takes it away.

The Zoya Factor movie cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Sonam Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor, Manu Rishi, Angad Bedi, Sikander Kher, Koel Purie
The Zoya Factor movie director: Abhishek Sharma
The Zoya Factor movie rating: Two and a half stars

When it came out in 2008, Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor redefined Indian chick-lit. I’d go further and say that her debut novel was one of a kind. It had the mandatory made-for-each-other girl and guy. It had the meet-cute, bicker-snicker will-she-won’t-she, will-he-won’t-he, till they did, which was fine and dandy all by itself. What Chauhan also did was corral the India it was set in (especially the vagaries of the advertising world) with a precise and wicked eye. The thing between the girl and guy was fresh and zingy, overlaid with just the right degree of sexiness, and the whole was laugh-out-loud funny.

The book was always going to be a movie. No way that Zoya Solanki, the curly-haired klutzy advertising rookie, and Nikhil Khoda, the tall, dark and handsome cricketer, were not going to be lobbing snappy remarks and sparking together, on a screen near you.

It’s taken more than ten years, and while Sonam’s Zoya and Dulquer’s Nikhil make a good-looking pair, I wasn’t as blown away by them as I was hoping to: they come together only intermittently, as does the film. The rest of it is surprisingly contrived and bland: how did the film manage it with the author, whose brand of sprightly silliness can be addictive, on board?

The film’s best bits belong to Dulquer, even though I kept hoping for him to break out a little more. But still, he makes something of his Nikhil, the Indian cricket captain who believes in winning by dint of hard work, and who has to confront a googly in the shape of Zoya, who turns, overnight and fuzzily, into a good luck charm for the team.

Kapoor has had some practice in being a delightful ditz, and she aced that act in her Khoobsurat. Here, she yo-yos between being-all-over-the-place-and-nailing-it, and you end up wanting more, for Zoya to have that little special something, especially because she has so much screen time.

Of the supporting cast, Rishi as the dodgy cricketing official stands out, as does the girl who plays a catty TV presenter. A few members of the cricket team are a hoot, especially the superstitious bowler and the Jat cricketer with the heaviest Haryanvi accent this side of Sonepat. Except for one crackling sequence, Kapoor as Zoya’s dad, and Kher as her `bhai’, both cricket-mad ‘faujis’, come and go flatly: is there a single scene in which the ‘bada bhai’ doesn’t call Zoya ‘jhadoo’? Tell me if you come across it.

For a rom-com which needs to be light on its feet, hitting fours and sixes as it goes along, the writing is not as supple as it should have been. Too many slog overs here.

It is Dulquer, sufficiently snarky and gooey-eyed in turns, who keeps us interested. He’s already an established actor/star in Malayalam cinema. He made a mark with his Bollywood debut Karwaan; here he lifts it all the way away. I’d call it the DQ Factor.

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