Zed Plus (official poster)
A Hoard of Minuses

Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi
(Direction, Screenplay & Dialogue)

Ramkumar Singh
(Story, Screenplay & Dialogue)

Film Review
Zed Plus :A Hoard of Minuses

ZED PLUS: A Hoard of Minuses

Satire is a fascinating genre because it gives one a chance to inspect the existing socio-political scenario. But it’s also a very difficult one to crack because the balance between the social commentary and the emotional journey of the characters is difficult to strike. Just like the 2009 film ‘Well Done Abba’ (dir: Shyam Benegal), ‘Zed Plus’ a political-satire directed by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, also falls short of becoming a film that strikes all the right chords. It starts off with noble intentions but stumbles upon its own crude telling and ends up failing to pull off its contrived storyline.

In Delhi, the Prime Minister (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) faces political upheavals and is worried about his coalition government. He is told about a holy shrine in Fatehpur, Rajasthan, where people go seeking mystical aid. In this town lives Aslam (Adil Hussain), a petty mechanic (his wife Hamida sells traditional footwear - why he won’t help her run a better-off business is inexplicable) who is having an extramarital affair with Saeeda, a woman who has recently lost her husband. There is a rift between him and his neighbor Habib who also has feelings for the widow. Meanwhile, due to his family lineage Aslam is chosen to be the curator of the shrine for the very day the Prime minister is expected to visit it. The story takes a twist when Aslam tells the PM, who doesn’t understand Hindi; that he feels threatened by his neighbor and the latter takes is as a terror-alert and orders z-plus security for our man. PM’s associate Janardan Dixit (K. K. Raina) knows that his boss has made a blunder and to save the face of the government, forces Aslam to testify that he indeed received threats from cross-border terrorists. How the z-plus security cover of 8-10 commandos makes life an unexpected turn of events for Aslam is rest of the story in which the poor chap, rather conveniently and unconvincingly, is also approached by a vested-interests party to contest the elections.

The story by Ramkumar Singh gets full marks for originality. It is somewhat outlandish but eventful and had in it a great potential of becoming a nuanced satire. However, it is led down by a saggy screenplay (Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Ramkumar Singh) that rests on a couple of contrived twists, hackneyed emotional moments and somewhat inconsistent characters all of which leave several loopholes, for instance - Why would Dixit not clarify the misunderstanding to the PM at the very onset? Why would Aslam leave for Delhi without informing his own wife? Why the chief-minister would first make Aslam join his political party and then later blackmail him? Aslam wants the z-plus security to be removed because he wants to keep meeting Saeeda but does he really love her? In that case, what becomes of their relationship eventually? Why the terrorists would actually want to kill Aslam (because in order to become famous they could have just taken the responsibility of the said threats)? Almost all of Aslam’s moves are forced while his internal motivation and priorities remain unclear as things happen to him without rhyme or reason. The relationship triangles between Saeeda-Aslam-Hamida and Aslam-Saeeda-Habib (an allegory of the Kashmir issue... nice!) have neither been fully explained nor explored and have been further weakened by a couple of redundant female characters. One does find respite in the witty one-liners and the use of literary phrases in dialogue (Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Ramkumar Singh) which at times turn protracted and preachy.

In terms of performances, one gets a feeling that the casting could have added a lot more to the overall impact of the story. Adil Hussain as Aslam tries hard and occasionally succeeds in bringing Aslam to life while Mona Singh makes Hamida seem unnecessarily sentimental. Rest of the actors pitch in stagy performances and at times speak way too loudly. (Imagine a man, in a closed locality, meeting his mistress on the sly at midnight and both of them converse at the top of their voices in her courtyard!) The cinematography and edit do satisfactory jobs while the music doesn’t have a single note you would not have heard before.

Zed Plus, with its interesting concept, manages to stand out in comparison with regular Hindi potboilers because it does have something to say. However, it falters in the delivery and fetches only a consolation prize.

   Dinkar Sharma

Dinkar Sharma is a Screenwriter. His first feature film ‘Second Marriage Dot Com’ was released in 2012. He can be contacted via his Facebook profile: www.facebook.com/imdinkarsharma. www.facebook.com/imdinkarsharma

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