MUMBAI • Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's latest film is released this week, with the actor, who plays a dwarf, seeking a hit after an underwhelming run at the box office.
Zero, which hits cinemas today, features the Hindi movie icon, miniaturised with special effects, caught up in a love triangle alongside actress Anushka Sharma, who plays a wheelchair user.
Director Aanand L. Rai believes he brought the larger-than-life actor, nicknamed "King Khan", out of his comfort zone to play a character 90cm tall.
"This kind of story about a man's journey and his love story needed someone like him. By casting him, we challenged Khan to show us what he could do," Rai said.
Zero, which is heavy on special effects, features Sharma playing a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist with cerebral palsy and Katrina Kaif portraying a Bollywood actress with a drinking problem.
Bauua Singh, played by Khan, is struggling to find a wife because of his height, but develops a close bond with both women as he searches for his true love.
It is his first movie since Jab Harry Met Sejal bombed last year. The actor's Raees (2017) and Fan (2016) also did not do as well as hoped.
Khan, 53, shot to fame in the mid-1990s as the romantic hero of hits such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave-Hearted Will Take The Bride, 1995) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens, 1998).
Critics say Khan - a ubiquitous presence in advertising - has struggled to transition away from those roles and find a new niche for himself as he ages.
They point out that playing the romantic hero alongside much younger actresses can jar with audiences. Sharma is 30, while Kaif is 35.
Some industry watchers have tipped Zero for success, though.
Mr Vajir Singh, editor of Bollywood website Box Office India, said that Khan and Rai, known for romantic flicks Raanjhanaa (Beloved One, 2013) and Tanu Weds Manu (2011), are a "win-win combination".
The film also includes a cameo appearance by legendary actress Sridevi Kapoor, who died from accidental drowning in a Dubai hotel room bathtub in February aged 54.