Dor is one of the better films to come out of Hindi cinema. It was a sleeper hit and much appreciated by discerning viewers.
The movie starts with giving us a glimpse into the lives of Zeenat (Gul Panag) in Himachal Pradesh and Meera (Ayesha Takia) in Rajasthan. Zeenat is a strong willed woman who loves Aamir (Rushad Rana). They decide to get married despite his parents being unhappy with the match. After a short honeymoon, Aamir leaves for Saudi Arabia for employment.
Simultaneously, we see a happy young couple Shankar (Anirudh Jaykar) and Meera in Rajasthan. Meera loves dancing to film songs for Shankar. For Meera, life with Shankar is liberating and full of fun. She is sad to see him go off to Saudi Arabia. Shankar’s father, Randir Singh (Girish Karnad), was once a rich man who has fallen into hard times. He has rented out his haveli to Chopra (Nagesh Kukunoor)and lives in smaller quarters. He hopes to reclaim and repair his haveli once Shankar starts sending money home.
Zeenat and Meera are shocked out of their wits by an unexpected development. Their husbands, who are living together in Saudi, get into an alleged fight. Shankar dies after falling from the 10th floor of their home and Aamir is accused of pushing him to his death. He faces a death penalty.
There is only one way of saving Aamir. Zeenat must go and get a pardon letter signed by Shankar’s wife. She has no means of locating Meera. All she has is a picture of Aamir and Shankar and the knowledge that Shankar was from Rajasthan.
After a long travel Zeenat is in Rajasthan and at her wits end about how to proceed. A local behrupiya comes to her aid and helps her locate Meera. This spunky, fiery, independent girl is suddenly abashed. How can she walk up to a young widow and say ‘Please pardon the killer of your husband’. In a bid to come closer to Meera, Zeenat befriends her.
They learn about each others’ lives, their hopes and fears. Zeenat knows in her heart that asking Meera to pardon her husband is going to be the hardest thing she will do.
It is primarily a film about female solidarity. It shows how women are connected to each other. By tragedy, by fate, by hope. Despite geographical distances, despite difference in age, despite difference in temperament, they find comfort in each other.
There are four female major characters in Dor. The first two are the female leads, Meera and Zeenat. There are some similarities between them. They are both deeply in love with their husbands and feel free and independent in their marriage. Meera is orthodox and tied to her life, she knows no other. Zeenat is a self assured woman who knows how to get her way. Meera is full of fear about life outside her family, Zeenat knows no such fear.
The other two female characters are Meera’s mother-in-law and her grandmother-in-law. The mother-in-law, Gauri (Prateeksha Lonkar) does not like Meera. She is loth to see her son in love with Meera and tries to establish her right over her son. After her son’s death, she clearly holds Meera responsible and rains abuse on her.
Shankar’s grandmother Laxmibai (Uttara Baokar) scolds her young bride at every opportunity she gets. Later, when the young girl becomes a widow, she thaws and tries to comfort Meera. She tells Meera that when she had become a widow at a young age, her own son had disowned her. She was sidelined and ignored. When Gowri tries to thwart Meera, it is the grandmother who reminds Gowri that if anything happened to Randhir Singh, she would lose all her power.
The message here is loud and clear. To combat patriarchy, women need to stand together and help each other out.
The story also touches upon the idea of forgiveness being more important than seeking revenge. In forgiving Zeenat’s husband, Meera may earn redemption and also a hope of better life.
There are two exploitative men in the story. One is Randhir Singh and another is Chopra, their tenant who is renting the haveli. Chopra has his eyes on the beautiful Meera and is willing to pay for her. Randhir Singh, in dire need of money, is willing to sell Meera. But these two fade into nothingness once women decide to take fate into their own hands.
The movie is beautifully shot. Especially in the beginning when the story switches rapidly between Zeenat in Himachal Pradesh to Meera in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. In the later part it is shot in Rajasthan among majestic sand dunes.
The soundtrack is by Salim Sulaiman and the lyrics are by Mir Ali Hussain. Most of the songs are classical based and have a Rajasthani flavor. Some popular hindi songs like ‘Kajra Re’ and ‘You are my soniya’ are also used.
The clothes we wear give away our status in life and the place we belong to. The clothes that the characters in a movie wear are supposed to do the same. As a young bride, Meera wears bright colors and jewellery. As a widow she wears a heavy garb of dull blue. Likewise, Zeenat wears a long kurta and salwar with a dupatta to denote her region. The menfolk wear dhotis in Rajasthan, and warm pajamas in Himachal Pradesh.
The clothes we wear give away our status in life and the place we belong to.
The acting is excellent all around. Gul Panag shines as Zeenat and fits right into her character. Meera is every inch a nubile young girl felled by widowhood. Her attempts to embrace life despite her grief are both heart breaking and heart warming.
Uttara Baokar as Shankar’s grandmother and Meera’s saviour is excellent. Although Gowri’s role is not very large, in the few scenes she has you can see how effective Prateeksha Lonkar is.
Girish Karnad plays Shankar’s father without any exaggerated mannerisms, but there is a right amount of menace in him when he decides to sell Meera off to Chopra. Nagesh Kukoonoor plays Chopra and does justice to it.
Shreyas Talpade holds his own in the woman-centric film. He plays a behroopiya, a man who ekes out his living by playing different roles. He helps Zeenat find Meera. He understands the tribulations women go through, being a marginalized member of the society himself. “If a man becomes a widower, he gets married within a year. But, oh god, what a lot of trials you women have to go through.” He tells Zeenat.
Produced by Elahe Hiptoolah
Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor
Written by Nagesh Kukunoor