Zero Kms Review: Provocatively forceful, outrageously psychedelic

Zero Kms on Zee 5 is a must watch…

In the matter of a few months, Zee5 has made the digital space its personal fiefdom. It has succeeded where others have failed– it offers inarguably the most diverse and exciting bouquet of Originals to audiences, this side of the planet.

Having whet our appetites with the kaleidoscopic Table No 5, Zee5 has taken the next bold move forward- with the provocatively forceful, outrageously psychedelic, Zero Kms. Yes, this web series, with the very intriguing title, is the latest Zee5 Original to stream on the platform.

Zero Kms flirts with the dark, dangerous world of human trafficking. Brave would be a grossly underwhelming word to describe the channel’s foray into an issue which is largely ignored in the realm of popular conscience. Human trafficking exists, we all know that; but have we really bothered to understand the murky machinations of this shadowy industry that thrives in almost all countries of the world, but especially in our country? No, because this issue is almost always swept under the carpet, or spoken about in hushed tones at best.

According to a report published by the UN, India is the source, destination and transit country for human trafficking. There are approximately 10 million sex workers in India out of which 300,000 to 500,000 are children under 18 years of age. Almost all these women and girls are victims of human trafficking. Such is the extent of trafficking within the boundaries of the country, forget about cross-border trafficking. There is also a growing demand for very young girls to be inducted into the sex industry on account of customer preferences.

Rather than adopting a holier-than-thou attitude regarding this most shameful statistic, something needs to be done, and fast. Zee5’s Zero Kms nudges our collective conscience, not so gently, in that direction.

The visuals are chilling, to say the least. They are stark, raw and…..riveting; yes, that’s the word. However hard you try to tear your eyes away from their hypnotic pull, you find yourself transfixed and unable to look away. The background music is the perfect foil to the darkness that engulfs the series. It pulsates with a compelling beat and builds to a frightening crescendo, and you know something terrible is about to happen. Every frame, every single damn frame, palpitates with the music, in anticipation of what’ll happen next

The series is helmed by Q, aka Qaushiq Mukherjee, the wildly talented director, with an equally gifted penchant for making movies that are savagely bold and unapologetically in-your-face.  The guy revels in telling stories that are uncompromisingly direct, blatantly frank and drenched in unpalatable brusqueness. Oh, and yes, his magnum opuses are brimming with sex, violence and gore. That is the reason they’ve never seen a theatrical release in India. And Q cares two hoots for that. His movies are greatly celebrated on online platforms and that’s all he cares about.

Q’s reputation precedes him, and we brace ourselves for an overdose of sex and violence. Ironically, Q’s first web series has negligible amounts of sex. Sexually suggestive scenes- plenty, sexually explicit- not! The series is high on violence and let us inform you at the very outset that Zero Kms is vastly different from anything you’ve ever seen before. If you’re looking for ‘warm and fuzzy’ feel-good stuff, then Zero Kms is clearly not for you. Hard-hitting would be an understatement to label this brand of content, which doesn’t even begin to describe the mayhem that unfolds in its 12 episodes.

Each episode of the 12-episode series opens with a disturbing piece of statistic flashed on the screen, regarding human trafficking. Next to come, at the start of each episode, are immensely more disturbing visuals– the very first episode shows a young girl’s tongue being surgically cut off. Other episodes show a bevy of girls, blood-stained bandages covering their mouths, being subjected to scrutiny; nubile young girls displayed as provocative sex objects; and many more of the same ilk.

The disconcerting opening sets the tone of the events to follow, and we spend the better part of the 18-22 minutes of run time, with gooseflesh, hand to the mouth and heart in the throat.

Arjun, played by Tanmay Dhanania, is the protagonist. He’s just been released from jail, after ten years of incarceration for murdering a police officer. The truth is something else, and far more evil. Arjun had been framed by DCP John Pinto (Satyadeep Mishra, in his most menacing avatar yet), to blackmail Arjun’s brother, police officer Shyam (Mukul Chadda), into toeing his line. Pinto is the face of an international human trafficking ring that does the most despicable things one can contemplate.

While in jail, Arjun is mentored by a martial arts maven called Guru. Guru, if you haven’t guessed by now, is played by none other than the prodigious Naseeruddin Shah. Guru is something of an enigma. The lessons he gives Arjun are deeply sublime and inscrutably brilliant. His training and teachings transform the lanky Arjun into a lean, mean, fighting machine. At his best, Arjun can kill the most vicious of men with his bare hands. Once out of jail, Arjun realizes that Shyam is in deep trouble. And before he knows it, Shyam is murdered and Arjun becomes the prime suspect. Shyam has left a series of clues for Arjun to decipher, which will lead him to crucial evidence against Pinto and his goings-on.

That sets the stage for a wild goose chase criss-crossing Goa, even as the series takes us ever deeper into the byzantine world of sexual exploitation. Zero Kms doesn’t waste time on niceties, cutting to the chase straightaway. Throats are slit with alarming regularity– every episode features at least one– and there are copious amounts of blood and gore. A ruthless hit-man called Julius goes on a killing spree with such nonchalant viciousness that it makes one’s hair stand on end.

Q’s reputation precedes him, and we brace ourselves for an overdose of sex and violence. Ironically, Q’s first web series has negligible amounts of sex. Sexually suggestive scenes- plenty, sexually explicit- not! The series is high on violence and let us inform you at the very outset that Zero Kms is vastly different from anything you’ve ever seen before. If you’re looking for ‘warm and fuzzy’ feel-good stuff, then Zero Kms is clearly not for you. Hard-hitting would be an understatement to label this brand of content, which doesn’t even begin to describe the mayhem that unfolds in its 12 episodes

Zero Kms is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but aficionados of the blood-and-gore-filled crime genre will find they’ve hit the jackpot.

The visuals are chilling, to say the least. They are stark, raw and…..riveting; yes, that’s the word. However hard you try to tear your eyes away from their hypnotic pull, you find yourself transfixed and unable to look away. The background music is the perfect foil to the darkness that engulfs the series. It pulsates with a compelling beat and builds to a frightening crescendo, and you know something terrible is about to happen. Every frame, every single damn frame, palpitates with the music, in anticipation of what’ll happen next.

The series is set in sunny Goa, that most contradictory of places– on the one hand, you have the Goa of sunny beaches, virgin landscapes, languid living; and on the side of the spectrum is the Goa that is the hotbed of organised crime, sinister drug deals and more. This incongruity adds to the persuasiveness of the story, rather than takes away from it. The inherent darkness of the plot, juxtaposed against the verdant greenery of Goa adds up to an intriguing contrast. Aerial shots of vehicles moving along greenery-lined roads are reminiscent of Narcos.

Zero Kms is a fine example of razor-sharp direction and equally sharp acting, as any good series must be. It, however, flounders in the story department. The story is predictable, has no teeth and ambles along unhurriedly, to culminate in an absurdly tame ending. There are more loose ends and unanswered questions than one cares to remember. Why is Guru in jail, and why does he hold so much sway over everyone, including Pinto? What does his daughter Tommy (Tara D’Souza), who rescues Arjun several times, do for a living? Why isn’t Arjun hunting for his missing niece, Alia (Roshni Walia), instead of sitting around with his ex, and Pinto’s current wife, Sheela (Vaibhavi Upadhyay), trying to decipher the last clue? What mission has Guru trained Arjun for? Who in heaven’s name is Desmond- that he’s the lynchpin we gleaned as much, but there’s nothing more concrete about him. There are quite a few inexplicable scenes too, which are made to seem relevant, but how they’re relevant is left completely to our imagination.

There are also several really exasperating aspects to the show that are hard to warm up to– the constant dialogue Arjun keeps up with himself; the quick camera cuts, swinging between past and present; the innumerable flashback scenes; the lack of urgency in Arjun’s actions– Zero Kms would have been infinitely sharper and tauter without these, in our opinion.

That said, Zero Kms is one of the finest shows to emerge out of the recent mad dash for Originals and web supremacy. It’s a not-to-be-missed show, in our humble opinion. Oh and one more thing, if you’re in the habit of watching your daily quota of web shows last thing at night like moi, do desist in the case of Zero Kms. The haunting visuals will linger in your mind’s eye till late in the night; the pulsating music will continue to ring in your ears, until you will it to go away; and a good night’s sleep will have gone for a toss. But if you still insist on watching it in the darkness of night, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

We, at IWMBuzz, though spooked out of our skins, rate Zero Kms 4/5. A must watch…

(Written by Rashmi Paharia)

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