What do we generally do when a black cat crosses the road? Stop, or rather freeze, in our tracks for some time. Well, because the poor creature is synonymous with bad luck. Secondly, don’t our grandmothers tell us in a sombre tone not to step out of the house when we sneeze? And last but not the least, God forbid if the glass shatters. You must be wondering why I’m rattling about the never-ending superstitions that have become a part and parcel of our nature. Because I just watched The Zoya Factor, and the otherwise watchable rom-com had a word of caution for all of us – beware of superstitions.
The Zoya Factor begins with Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) cursing her luck because her professional as well as personal lives are in a mess. Destiny takes this junior copywriter from an ad agency to a five-star hotel where she is supposed to coordinate a shoot with the Indian cricket team. One morning, Zoya glides to the breakfast table of the team and thereon begins her journey to becoming “India’s lucky charm.” One meal a day with the lady in read guarantees a win in every match.
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As Zoya breaks the fourth wall to acquaint us with the cricketers, we find out that they too are gripped by the deep-seated superstition prevalent in our country. After all, sportsmen too have their own quirks. While Harry’s luck is trapped in his long locks, Shivy never fails to steal a glance at his grandmother’s photograph before every match.
Fans turn up in the “Goddess’” favourite colour red to cheer for India and even chant Zoya’s name.
No wonder, when Zoya blesses the delicious buffet with her bite, the team goes crazy. So do the citizens of the country. Her soaring popularity cements their blind faith in abstract symbols and they do not hesitate to deify this middle class ad executive. Fans turn up in the “Goddess’” favourite colour red to cheer for India and even chant Zoya’s name. Not to forget the business aspect of this madness. Zoya pendants, Zoya wind chimes – you name it and Zoya is right there in front of you. The blind faith blurs Zoya’s ability to rationalise. She considers it the force of her luck when India wins a match just because it starts pouring in the middle of summer.
Despite the Indian team captain Nikhil Khoda’s (Dulquer Salmaan) insistence that self-confidence always takes a backseat when it is overshadowed by unfounded belief, Zoya turns a deaf ear to him. It is only when she is coaxed into donning a “devi’s” costume that reality dawns on her and her brother Zorawar’s words hit her hard – people will put you up on a pedestal but they won’t think twice before burning you.
It’s not just ‘The Zoya Factor’. ‘Oh! My God’, starring Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal, and Sanjay Dutt’s ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ had also shown us the dark side of superstitions.
They almost act like a prophecy. When Zoya abstains from attending any of the matches and Team India faces crushing defeat, people land up at her house, pelting stones and burning effigies. But, lo and behold! When the performance stabilises after quite some time, these same “stone-pelters” request Zorawar to open the windows so that they can watch the match.
It’s not just The Zoya Factor. Oh! My God, starring Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal, and Lage Raho Munna Bhai had also shown us the dark side of superstitions.
Instead of feeding milk to kids begging in front of the temples, Shivlings are bathed in gallons of milk. At the same time, ordinary people are worshiped and their statues erected, if by accident Lady Luck smiles on them. Add to that the hypnotism of Vastus. Adding an extra ‘K’ to the surname or calling off a wedding just because the bride is ‘manglik’ reinforce the idea that we bury the tiny voice inside us that screams about paying attention to logic.
The Zoya Factor quashes misguided beliefs and it also captures India’s contradictions. On one hand, prayers are whispered for the cricketers the moment they wave to their fans from the stadium. On the other, a well-wisher who was once considered a ‘Goddess’ is being abused and attacked just because the blindfold has come off. Guess it will take a long, long time to finally get rid of the numerous A’s and K’s in names, look at black cats with affection, and not pledge to break coconuts or offer gold and other ornaments if our wishes are fulfilled.