Starring: Gul Panag, Ayesha Takia, Shreyas Talpade
Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor
Rating: **** ½
How far would you go for love? That's the question which the narrative softly raises.
How far would YOU go to see this film? That's the question every movie-enthusiast should ask loudly.
Very frankly, Dor takes you by complete surprise. Of course you expect a certain aesthetic and technical finesse in a Kukunoor creation. But nothing he has done so far—not the under-rated 3 Deewaarein and certainly not the hugely-feted Iqbal—prepares us for the luminous spiritual depths and the exhilarating emotional heights of Dor.
The stunningly original screenplay sweeps in a caressing arc, over the separate yet bonded lives of two women, Zeenat (Gul Panag) in the snowscapes of Himachal Pradesh and Meera (Ayesha Takia) in the parched sand-storms of Rajasthan.
The picaresque pilgrimage of one woman into the life of another is charted in the resplendent rhythms of a rather zingy symphony played at an octave that's at once subdued and persuasive.
Dor could any time lapse into being one of those tedious works on women's emancipation. Kukunoor controls the emotional tide with hands that know when to exercise restrain and when to let go.
Dor flies high and effortlessly in an azure sky, creating elating dips and curves in the skyline without ever letting go of the thematic thrusts that take the director as far into the realm of realism as cinematically possible, without losing out on that wonderful quality of cinematic splendour that separates poetry from sermons.
Join Zeenat,then, on her bizarre impossible quest to find a achingly young newly widowed woman whom Zeenat has never seen, met or even heard of until her husband's sudden tryst with crisis.
The way Kukunoor weaves the two unconnected lives in contrasting hinterlands is not short of magical.
The eye for detail (take a bow Sudeep Chatterjee, Munish Sappal, Sanjeev Dutta and Salim-Suleiman for conferring a subtle but skilled splendour through your cinematography, art direction, editing and music) is so keen, you tend to stare not at the screen, but at feelings and emotions that aren't visible.
From the initial scenes of tender bonding between between the two women and their respective spouses , to the indelible sisterhood between the two bereaved women that constitutes the end-notes of this sublime celluloid symphony….Kukunoor's world of wistful peregrinations is as fragile as it's powerful.
The quality of fire-and-ice is not just all-defining, it also provides a subliminal text to the narrative's inner world where ideologies and 'isms' fade, only pain hurt and betrayal remains.
There're moments of unbearable poignancy in the film. The sequence where the child-woman gone from bright bride to wan widow in months, opens her dead husband's suitcase, is remarkable for creating a disturbing sense of spatial disharmony…The frailty of the widowed girl is weighed against the huge expanse of the crumbling room containing that one tiny accusing blue suitcase that symbolizes her shattered world.
Scenes of female bonding between Ayesha Takia and her dead husband's grand mother (Uttara Baovkar) convey a familiar yet refreshing genuineness.
But it's the Takia-Panag sisterhood that sustains the narrative. Both the actresses are huge revelations, Takia winning more sympathy votes for the sheer poignancy of her character's predicament.
Scenes such as the one where she falls unconscious while hearing the news of her husband's death over the only cellphone in the village, or the one where she furtively dances to You're my sonia stay etched beyond the frames.
Chunks of the film where Zeenat tries to locate Meera are designed as an ongoing travel-adventure. You wish Kukunoor hadn't introduced Shreyas Talpade's character ….He adds nothing to the central theme of female bonding. In fact Talpade's drunken confessions of love to Panag in the wilderness, and Kukunoor's obtrusive appearance as a engineer who has designs over Takia, are somewhat embarrassing.
It's not as if such things don't happen in real life. It's just that these situations don't belong to a world that Kukunoor has built out of the finest threads of humanism compassion and empathy.
Is Dor one of the most poignant films in recent times? Most probably it is. When it comes to portraying a forlorn yet undefeated sisterhood it stands tall and stately right up there with Deepa Mehta's Water.