Dulquer’s Fine Innings in The Zoya Factor

Given the success ratio of Bollywood films adapted from best-selling books, it’s no surprise that the industry grabbed writer Anuja Chauhan’s hugely popular work, The Zoya Factor, and even retained the title for the film. Chauhan’s writing in the book is top-notch, resulting in its unprecedented success. The only thing that creates as much craze in India as cinema is, of course, cricket and when the twain meet, it’s a blast.

The Zoya Factor is a satirical take on luck and superstition with cricket as the backdrop. Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) is deemed to be lucky right from her day of her birth, given that India won the Cricket World Cup on that very date in 1983. A little more than a couple of decades later, she works in an ad firm that gets to collaborate with Team India, months before the coveted World Cup. As has been the case right from her childhood, Zoya has brought luck on herself and people around her, and it’s no different for the Indian team.

Zoya’s entry helps the team break its losing streak even as their captain-cum-star player Nikhil Khoda (Dulquer Salmaan) dismisses the luck theory. He strongly believes hard work is the road to success but to his consternation, Zoya soon becomes the team’s official mascot. Problems start when Nikhil starts to fall for the innocent Zoya, but he gets increasingly irritated at the media’s glorification of Zoya’s role in India’s on-field successes. How will things eventually pan out?

A large part of the book’s success revolved around the title character’s innocence, bubbly nature and involuntary charm. As the middle-class girl from Karol Bagh, Zoya is a very relatable character for Indians and Anuja’s crisp writing ensured a fine reading experience. Therefore, it is a no-brainer that the film’s leading lady had to bring all those qualities to the table to make it a convincing watch. Sadly, Sonam Kapoor seems miscast in this lighthearted satire that unfortunately relies on her to move forward.

In films like Raanjhanaa and Neerja, Kapoor had put in effortless performances where she made her characters relatable. But in high-intensity sequences, be it humour or drama, she has this tendency to go over the top. As Zoya, Sonam ends up looking like a caricature.

Dulquer Salmaan is the only real bright spot in the film, as he fits the modern day uber cool star-cricketer. The most impressive thing is obviously his Hindi diction, as that’s always the point of observation whenever a South Indian actor stars in a Hindi film.

Dulquer and Sonam are compatible as a pair and the chemistry created by their contrasting personalities do prop things up. But, the screenplay by Neha Sharma and Pradhuman Singh lacks the fizz of the book. Most of the dialogues are retained from the book although the Pradhuman has helped with some of the scenes. There are a few funny one-liners which work but something is obviously amiss.

The casting of the cricketers works reasonably well and you can easily spot some of the resemblances although the character arcs, playing roles are all mixed up to avoid any similarity with real-life players. The cricketing portions have turned out well, and the support cast puts in a decent act but actors like Angad Bedi are underutilized. Having done a brilliant part in the web series Inside Edge based on cricket, he barely has any scope to perform here.

For someone who is a highly-rated performer in Mollywood, Dulquer once again shows that he has the caliber to emerge as a pan-India face. His effortless performance goes a long way in making this film watchable and if only, Sonam Kapoor could have matched it, things could have turned out better.

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