The Zoya Factor: Sonam Kapoor Ahuja ruins a brilliant character

Towards the end of The Zoya Factor, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja’s Zoya Solanki says, “sab kuch mazaaq bann gaya hai,” and that’s exactly how I felt by that scene in the film. The Zoya Factor had the potential, but in the hands of luck, it falters.

Look at the scenario, and even the not-very-well-hidden irony. Anuja Chauhan’s book, that goes by the same name, talks about India’s obsession with cricket and our mad belief in superstition. Layers beneath, it talks about talent and luck, and how while the latter may be a little important but it is talent and hard work that thrives. Sonam Kapoor Ahuja is the daughter of Anil Kapoor, the film’s leading man, Dulquer Salmaan is the son of Malayalam Cinema genius, Mammootty. Even Zoya’s family in the film (Sanjay Kapoor – Anil Kapoor’s brother and Sikander Kher – Kirron Kher’s son) are lineages of cinema. The casting alone talks about the idea behind creating this film.

Talking about the story of the film, many of you might’ve already read Chauhan’s fantastic book. It’s a light read, but great literature at the end of the day. Chauhan has the ability to create humour even when you least expect it. So when Red Chillies had earlier bought the rights of the book, I was a little excited but when Fox Star Studios, Pooja Shetty and Aarrti Shetty bought the rights and eventually announced Sonam K Ahuja as Zoya, I lost all hope. And being an Anuja Chauhan fan, it hurt me to watch her walk all over the film. Zoya is brilliant character, she has so many layers, so much scope, but in the film, I saw none.

Anyway, back to the story, the film is about the Indian Cricket Team winning matches and eventually the World Cup because of Zoya’s luck, and not their hard work, strategy and talent, until she too realises that she’s doing nothing, as is Sonam K Ahuja. The writing by Anuja Chauhan, Pradhuman Singh and Neha Sharma is good. It does justice to the book to some extent, but not enough. Or perhaps, the story needed a more skilled director to lead the way. Here, director Abhishek Sharma brings Chauhan’s nuances into the film, but they’re not enough. He tackles the luck and love part with ease but conveniently forgets the talent. Or was this done intentionally, considering the casting? Guess we’ll never know!

The Zoya Factor, the book, is about cricket and our mad obsession with the sport. But Sharma fails to show it. A man painted in the colours of the tricolour, as a certain someone did for Sachin Tendulkar in real life, is not obsession enough. What we also don’t get to see is the bonding between the players. They’re all good looking men, and each do justice to their parts, but that’s not what cricket is about. Is it? We don’t see the men practicing, strategising, or anything for that matter. It’s all there in the film, but only for namesake. There are no nuances, no layers.

Angad Bedi does a good job as the anti-hero, but he hasn’t been given much to do. We have Dulquer Salmaan leading the men, both, as the captain of their team and as the leading man. While, he does not look as much a player as does Bedi, he plays his character (Nikhil) really well. Salmaan adds a certain charm to the film, and boy he can act. It’s not a character that tests his potential as an actor, but he makes us believe in him.

What really doesn’t work for the film is Sonam Kapoor Ahuja. She plays Zoya, a middle class girl whose love life and professional life both are a mess. She says it. While Kapoor Ahuja is and should always remain happy and blessed in the love sphere, she wasn’t so wrong about her own professional life. Over the years, barring a few films, she’s almost always failed us as an actor, but again, she has the luck that perhaps Zoya has and hence is still in the running, and also has the rights to Chauhan’s another brilliant work, Battle For Bittora. As I said, Zoya is a middle class woman, but Kapoor Ahuja walks in and out of frames wearing elaborate Valentino dresses and carrying Chanel bags, because who does red as does Valentino, right?. While my knowledge of brands may not exactly be correct, and it could’ve been a Gucci bag, but you get my point, I hope.

It is important, now, more than ever, for Kapoor Ahuja to realise that not every film is Aisha. We don’t always want to see her in gowns and dresses that more than half of the country cannot afford. She needs to realise that she’s playing characters like us, like you and me. We don’t sit for dinner parties in sarees by Masaba Gupta. We would love to, but we don’t. And that’s normal. But apparently, not for Kapoor Ahuja. Maybe if Neerja didn’t have to wear a uniform (in Neerja), the actress would’ve turned up in a Ralph & Russo gown, who knows! Or maybe her outfits were Ralph Lauren. Again, we’ll never be able to tell. Kapoor Ahuja is not someone who needs wardrobe sense, she has it in abundance. But, it’s very important to keep the professional life separate from the personal. It’s a film, not a photoshoot. It’s a character, not a mannequin. Also, why does Zoya keep talking into the camera? What went wrong there?

All in all, while The Zoya Factor is a feel good film, it’s because of Chauhan’s writing (of the book) and Dulquer Salmaan’s charming screen presence and not the film in itself. And perhaps, if the film had a stronger leading lady, it would have been a better story to listen to.

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