Zed Plus – the coveted cover & Aslam Puncturewala
“Zed Plus” – the moment we hear this word, what strikes your mind?
Politicians, VVIPs, celebrities and even the so-called God men these days. Isn’t it? But wait – this story is about none of them. It’s actually centered around a common man from a nondescript town in Rajasthan, who fixes punctured tyres for a living & struggles to make ends meet. He is one of the 400 descendants of a family who settled in Fatehpur and started rituals at a dargah near a peepal tree, famously called the Peepal wale Peer. A quarrel among family members to take ownership of the revenue results in the local Panchayat passing a rule – everyone of the 400 descendants will get to be the Khadim one after another. Which effectively meant, poor puncturewala would get a chance to be the Khadim of the Peepal waale Peer once every year. That one day, was destined to mark a turnaround in fortunes of Aslam.
The Prime Minister of India is shown to be struggling to save his government until someone suggests him to visit Fatehpur and bow before the Peepal waale Peer. The scheduled high-profile visit accidentally falls on the day Aslam was supposed to be the one-day Khadim at the Dargah. This interesting co-incidence meant the Prime Minister of India, who didn’t understand Hindi, spending time with Aslam, who couldn’t speak anything other than Hindi. Played by Adil Hussain, Aslam Puncturewala represents the lowest strata of our society. He fears his partner and fights his neighbor. Ironically, quite similar to the PM, who fears his coalition partners & fights his neighbor Pakistan. This one common attribute of the Prime Minister & Puncture-wala ensues a turn of event which ends up in Aslam getting a ‘Zed-security’ cover. This sparks a series of events which is no less a work of one of the best political satires of recent times. Someone who didn’t have a toilet in his house now roams around the town proudly with a Zed security cover. As days pass, the plot gets intense, Aslam gets restless and the story gets engaging. Like any Political satire, the plot of Zed Plus takes its time to take off, but keeps the audience engaged with its flow till the last cut.
Zed-plus gives a stage to many of Bollywood’s top-class actors who generally play the second rung. One of my friend quipped while watching that it’s the MNREGA of Indian Cinema. Nonetheless, all the characters showcase the highest standards of performance.
Just when the intermission is called, I see Aslam Khan Puncturewala sitting just behind my seat. The man moving around with a Zed security on the screen was sitting alongside smiling. It was a pleasant surprise. We had a good candid discussion. He had many things to share from his life, cinema, society & politics. A highly acclaimed actor, Adil shared his experience of working in films like the Life of Pi, English Vinglish, Zed Plus & many more. He seems concerned for the dying genre of political satire in Indian cinema and agrees that for efforts like Zed Plus to continue, the state needs to be more responsive and supportive to film-making. I couldn’t agree more, given that an excellent movie like Zed Plus was not even 40% house-full.