The Zoya Factor (2019) Review!!

Synopsis – Based Anuja Chauhan’s novel, Zoya Factor is a rom-com about Zoya, an advertising agent and her relationship with the captain of team India, Nikhil Khoda.

My Take – In India, Bollywood and Cricket give religion quite a tough competition when it comes to counting down their followers. Here, this film, based on the bestselling 2008 novel by Anuja Chauhan, is under the notion that a combination of the two will do wonders. Somehow they don’t remember how many have tried and failed before (with Lagaan and M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story being an exception of course).

However, this film takes quite a different approach from what one would expect. By embracing its fairy tale and romantic comedy vibes, the end result is actually not exactly shabby. In fact this is one of those usual Sonam Kapoor starrers like I Hate Luv Storys, Dolly Ki Doli, Aisha, Bewakoofiyaan, and Khoobsurat, which end up being watchable romantic comedies despite their many failings.

Like them, his film too has a fairly predictable chain of events that sets up the screenplay and has been garnished with a non-stop flow of situational laughs. If you have seen the trailer of this Abhishek Sharma directed film and have an idea about what the premise is, you might find this film as a passable comedy with some discrete fun moments to pass the time. And without a doubt, the film’s male lead, Dulquer Salmaan, son of Malayalam superstar Mammootty‎, deserves a lot of credit for that.

The story follows Zoya Solanki (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), who was born on the same day India won the 1983 cricket World Cup. While she is considered to be a lucky charm by her father Vijayendra (Sanjay Kapoor) and her brother Zoravar (Sikander Kher), when it comes to winning matches, her life has been anything but. Working as a junior copy writer in an ad agency, Zoya always finds herself at the other side of doing well.

However, things take a turn when she is send with her colleagues to Sri Lanka to take part in a small photo-shoot of the Indian cricket team. When a love-struck Zoya meets Nikhil Khoda (Dulquer Salmaan), the controversy ridden latest captain of the Indian cricket team, they hit it off instantly.

While Nikhil believes that only hard work can turn the tide for his struggling team, his team is mostly reliant on age old superstitions. And when they find that eating breakfast with Zoya, has indeed turned their luck due to their match winning innings in the most absurd way possible, their superstition puts her on a pedestal. Soon, Zoya is India’s new cricketing messiah. However, this new title leads to rift between her and Nikhil, as he believes that she is undermining his & his team’s efforts.

The old-fashioned romance has its moments despite the mismatched leads. The irreverent approach towards a sport that has become a quasi-religion in India is both a departure and a relief. And while the film hinges on a quirky premise, the narrative is too lazy to let the comic quotient resonate. The film actually starts out on a really entertaining note. Being a romantic comedy, it is silly and flimsy but enjoyable, with some hilarious interactions, sequences and some hilarious commentary to keep the mood light. But as soon as it enters the second half, it loses track.

Even though the film is never unwatchable, the same silliness which was entertaining 20 minutes back, goes overboard after the interval, since it starts taking itself too seriously. In scene after scene, the film builds to the point where a punchline is demanded. And just about every time, it comes up short.

Director Abhishek Sharma is no stranger to comedies, although his last release was the excellent nuclear-test drama, Parmanu (2018), he has directed comedies like Tere Bin Laden (2010), its sequel Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive (2016) and The Shaukeens (2014) in the past. Here he is trying to pitch the film as more of a romantic comedy, so hence when the film reaches that phase where Zoya is struggling to cope with the pressures of being a lucky charm to something as emotional as Indian National Cricket Team, the feel is somewhat missing.

Here, the film tries everything from daydream jokes to Baahubali jokes to post-dentist cottonmouth jokes, but they only occasionally hit the right spot. The film very consciously chooses this genre, but at the same time becomes too insecure to be called one. And perhaps to bridge that gap, it incorporates serious elements such as hyper nationalism. In doing so it also rushes through the most important question of the film – is luck important at all?

It doesn’t help that the film hasn’t the slightest feel for cricket. The on-field action, even edited down to a few key movements, looks preposterous. These are national teams, but they look like club sides, which begs the question: why not set your cricket film at a less exacting level, where wildly swinging batsmen and military medium bowlers might not be so out of place? Worse, though, are the narrative contrivances that reveal the film’s fundamental misunderstanding of the sport. Would a bowler who asks his captain for song recommendations before starting an over ever play for his country again?

In any comedy, the fun factor primarily banks on its lead. In turn, being funny on screen is all about timing (Govinda made a career out of it). Unfortunately for the film, Sonam Kapoor does not carry that X-Factor. She has always had a typical way of playing these kinds of characters, and here her character of Zoya is pretty much an extension of all those characters she played in earlier films. This affects the overall humor quotient, because almost everything that happens in this film is about Zoya, and she is there in almost every frame.

However, a big reason the film remains watchable for the entirety of its run time is the performance of Dulquer Salmaan, who with his excellent performance and on screen persona, absolutely steals the show. The actor fits into the mold of a character like Nikhil Khoda comfortably, absolutely smashes away.

The supporting cast is also quite good. Sanjay Kapoor and Sikander Kher are most hilarious and likable. While Angad Bedi, Koel Purie and Manu Rishi Chadha also perform decently. On the whole, ‘The Zoya Factor‘ is an average romantic comedy which despite its failings is watchable for its humor and Dulquer Salmaan‘s performance.

Directed – Abhishek Sharma

Starring – Sonam Kapoor, Dulquer Salmaan, Sanjay Kapoor

Rated – PG

Run Time – 134 minutes

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