Post-screening at the 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, I was having a discussion with my Aunt about life in Mumbai – about the suffering through the blasts, floods and riots – the spirit of Mumbai ignites her to step out of the four walls into the uncertain Mumbai life. For her, she steps out into a a limited and caged world. That same local train, that same route and that same job for years to strive for a better future (I wonder when it will be better). This is the one thing which snapped me immediately after Shlok Sharma’s “Zoo” ended.
Weaving together four character surviving the underbelly of Mumbai: two rappers from Dharavi, a coffee-shop waiter who runs a drug delivery and a teenager from rich South Mumbai who hasn’t left her apartment in two years. Caged in their realities while succumbing to the realizations and change, these characters take uncertain route of ‘underbelly’. In a particular scene, the two rappers are invited for a Political function and the rap a song about corruption – the next thing is that we find them in Police Station but in a surprising turn the Inspector invites them for his son’s birthday party. Reality hits hard but everybody seems to be succumbing to it reluctantly.
We find many of the happenings within four walls, be it the posh South Mumbai apartment or the slum in Dharavi. Lines are blurred between the damp slums and posh apartment when it comes to people struggling to live, revolt or stand. Writers Shilpa Srivastava and Shlok Sharma cage the audience with a good intention script but I felt it was lost while transforming to the screen. The ‘caged’ world and the ‘animal’ people create uncanny chaos in a narrow perspective.
I don’t know the much about the ‘drug factor’, but every character needed stash to survive – though it didn’t match my sensibilities, felt like Shlok Sharma drugged the direction in an absorbing way. But still felt like something was missing or may be I missed it or I need some stash. Editing by Aarti Bajaj was meticulous with an appropriate pacing. Touted to be as India’s first feature film shot on iPhone, Cinematographer Rangarajan Ramabadran does a phenomenal job in creating some great shots. An experiment which worked superbly and will inspire filmmakers to use iPhone for reducing production cost.
Shashank Arora who plays the waiter- the ‘gareebon ka shahrukh khan’ does a fine job who is accompanied terrifically by the two rappers, Prince Daniel and Yogesh Kumre. Shweta Tripathi’s story was one of the weakest where she played the weak character in a riveting way.
“Zoo” is an uncanny story of the underbelly and survival (reality) in the cage which we live. Something was missing though and didn’t really hit-clicked-snapped like Shlok’s previous film, “Haaramkhor” (2017) or may be people from the underbelly would get it.
Originally published on 15 October, 2017 for Young Critics Lab, 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Copyright ©2017 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.