From the director of Haramkhor (2015), ‘Zoo’ takes you on a journey from the ghettos of Bombay to its elite societies and drug addiction.
Addiction is a disease; it occupies your mind and soul. Drug addiction amongst the Indian youth is a rising concern for the nation. According to a 2015-survey conducted in Punjab, over 83% of drug users were employed, and 89% were literate, showing that drug addiction affects all social classes and, unfortunately, very few get the help they need to battle addiction.
Shlok Sharma’s Zoo, shot entirely on an iPhone 6 Plus, explores drug addiction and identity in the city of Mumbai through the central storyline involving five protagonists, two brothers, two wannabe rappers from the slums of Mumbai, and a girl who refuses to leave her house. The only things connecting their storylines are drug addiction and trade, and their personal conflict with their own identities. The characters involuntarily succumb to their weaknesses.
Shashank Arora, who was the lead in Brahman Naman, plays Bicky, a coffee shop worker who pretends to be mute and runs a drug business on the side. His brother who goes by ‘Messi’ (we never learn his real name) is a young, hot-headed footballer who ends up being fascinated with his older brother’s profession. The third protagonist, Misha (played by Shweta Tripathi) is an under-age girl who resorts to drugs in order to deal with her past. She never leaves her apartment, and she refuses to meet her family.
Towards the end of the film, we find the reason behind her addiction and a glimpse into her dark past. Two rappers from the slums of Dharavi, Mumbai seem slightly alien to the storyline as they are in search of their big breakthrough, while the world around them fails to understand their craft. Prince Daniel and Yogesh Kurme deliver excellent performances throughout the film.
The four storylines run parallel to each other, but the characters lack depth. Emotional outbursts and monologues fail to deliver to the potential of the film. We see the bond between the two brothers grow and Bicky’s rising concern for his younger brother, but his emotions fail to make the movie stand out. Misha’s character seems rather bland, as the audience is taken through the journey through relapses and mood-swings, but one is left wondering if there is more to her character.
In my perspective, the film would have progressed better if there were fewer protagonists, and the audience would also be able to emotionally connect with the characters. As the movie progresses and delves into the story-line focusing on the extremes of Mumbai, one fails to emotionally connect to a character and root for their victory for there are way too many story-lines and emotions to follow.
For a film shot on an iPhone, the cinematography is excellent. Most of the film is shot in natural light which adds to its rawness. Since the film focuses on love, loss, and addiction, I would love it if there was a separate film revolving around the story of the two rappers, Yoku and Prince. The film ends on a bittersweet note, where a few characters gain the closure they desperately seek, while others meet an untimely (and abrupt) end.
Feature Image Credits: Netflix