zoya factor review:

Sonam K. Ahuja, a.k.a. Sonam Kapoor and Dulquer Salmaan are delightful and fabulous in their respective roles of Zoya and cricket skipper Nikhil Khoda. (photo provided)

Way back in 1982, Subhash Ghai’s “Vidhaata” talked about the conflict between destiny and the result of hard work. It suggested in the end that destiny was supreme. Much water has flown under the bridge since, and this film, based on Anuja Chahuhan’s 2008 book, suggests neatly (and lightly) that it is hard work that brings in the bacon, not superstition, luck or lucky charms.

The tenor of the book was light and subtle, and the film tries to be the same. Suffice to say that it is entertaining with a capital “E” in most parts and the lead players—Sonam K. Ahuja, a.k.a. Sonam Kapoor and Dulquer Salmaan—are delightful and fabulous in their respective roles as Zoya and cricket skipper Nikhil Khoda. Salmaan is composer M.M. Kreem of South actors—we do not see any Southern inflection in his body language or accent just as we do not see a South flavor in Kreem’s Hindi work.

When Zoya is born, her enthusiastic father, ex-armyman Vijayendra Solanki (Sanjay Kapoor) calls her India’s lucky charm as India wins the World Cup in 1983 within minutes. But over the years, Zoya considers herself supremely unlucky—her boyfriends, including a dentist, ditch her and she messes up a lot of her professional assignments in AWB, an ad agency in which she works.

As a last chance, Zoya is sent to Sri Lanka for an ad shoot with the Indian cricket team, and Khoda has been losing matches. A bumbling, fumbling encounter with him earlier leads to Khoda inviting her for breakfast with the team before the match. Conversationally (Zoya hates cricket because her father and brother—played by Sikandar Kher—are obsessed with the game!), she tells the team what her father thinks of her, and why.

There are some superstitious players in the team—Shivi (Abhilash Chaudhary) and Harry (Gandharv Dewan) in particular, and when the India team wins the match miraculously, they start thinking that Zoya is indeed lucky for them.  In vain, Nikhil tries to make them see sense and believe in themselves and hard work, but gradually the team begins to think that Zoya is indeed lucky, and therefore, indispensable at breakfast on the day of a match!

Meanwhile, Nikhil finds himself falling in love with Zoya, and she finds herself reciprocating. However, very firmly and more than a bit rudely, Nikhil tells her to go back to India so that the team’s morale is not conditioned.

Back home, he comes to meet her, giving her father and his friends a pleasant shock and also helping them out. He makes amends with Zoya, but there are other things happening.

His captaincy has always been under threat because the cricket board chief (Manu Rishi Chaddha)’s nephew Robin (Angad Bedi) is a rival for the post, and soon both indulge in politics, also driving a wedge between the now-lovers. They promote Zoya as a lucky factor, offer her a crore, which she initially rejects, but after her misunderstanding with Nikhil, accepts. Soon, India starts winning match after match at the new World Cup. But Nikhil’s prediction to her, that she is doing a disservice to India’s cricket team and living under false delusions, comes true. What happens next?

The film’s editor, Utsav Bhagat, and the writers and finally, director Abhishek Sharma (of “Tere Bin Laden” and “Parmanu—The Story Of Pokhran” fame) deserve full credit for keeping the film fast-paced, riveting, and focused. Staple elements of mainstream Hindi cinema are incorporated seamlessly, and both the humor quotient and caliber remain high even in the emotional or dramatic sequences. We had only one problem with the writing: the lines by the cricket commentators, though they play to the gallery, are often irritatingly irreverent.

Manoj Lobo does an expert job of the camerawork. The background score is alright, and the music, especially “Pepsi Ki Kasam” in the end-credits and “Lucky Charm,” work within the film. These two songs and “Kaash” are also well-written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. Shah Rukh Khan’s commentary is witty, and for a change, when Zoya speaks to the audience, it is funny or hilarious but never avoidable, as it is in the vast majority of such cases.

The film scores high on performances—I have already mentioned the lead players. Abhilash Chaudhary and Gandharv Dewan are superb, and a total surprise is Sikander Kher as Zoya’s brother Zorawar. His expressions are amazing and so is the way he acts, speaks and expresses with his eyes. Manurishi is pitched brilliantly, and Angad Bedi makes for an effective subtle villain. Sanjay Kapoor does well, and so does Anil Kapoor in a special appearance. The rest of the cast is competent.

This is a delightful and different film, but nonetheless entertaining for that. A good film has many standout sequences, so does this one. The aftermath of the stone-throwing sequence in Zoya’s house, where tea is served to the stone-pelters, Nikhil’s phone conversation with an older man’s flame, and the crazy scene in the elevator are among the highlights. It is unfortunate that the film has released amidst two films, “Chhichhore” and “Dreamgirl,” that are going strong, and we hope that the audience finds space and time for this delight as well. Yes, there are suspensions of logic, but which mainstream film does not have them?

Rating: ****

Fox Star Studios and Adlabs Films present ‘The Zoya Factor’

Produced by: Pooja and Aarrti Shetty

Directed by: Abhishek Sharma

Written by: Anuja Chauhan, Pradhumann Mall and Neha Rakesh Sharma

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Starring: Sonam K. Ahuja, Dulquer Salmaan, Angad Bedi, Manurishi Chaddha, Sanjay Kapoor, Sikandar Kher, Udit Arora, Abhilash Chaudhary, Jashan Singh Kohli, Gandharv Dewan, Abhishek Madrecha, Pooja Bhamrrah, Koel Purie and others Sp. App.: Anil Kapoor

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