Rajeev Masand

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Masand’s verdict: Dor

 
Rajeev Masand Reviews
 

  Cast: Ayesha Takia, Gul Panag, Shreyas Talpade

Direction: Nagesh Kukunoor

Director Nagesh Kukunoor’s new film Dor has also opened this week. Inspired by a real-life event, Dor is the story of two young women from very different backgrounds who find their lives inexplicably linked by one tragic incident. Ayesha Takia plays a Rajasthani girl whose husband is killed in the Middle East, allegedly by his roommate.

That same piece of news has different repercussions for Gul Panag, a newly married girl in Himachal Pradesh, whose husband has been accused of committing that murder.

While Ayesha must resign herself to a life of sacrifice and solitude in her in-laws’ home, Gul decides to do what it takes to save her husband from the gallows. The law declares it’s death for death in the Middle East, unless the murdered man’s widow pardons the man who committed the murder.

So it’s up to Gul to urge Ayesha to forgive her husband. But is it in Ayesha to be so forgiving? That’s what Gul must find out when she makes the journey from Himachal to Rajasthan, aided along the way by wandering local Shreyas Talpade who provides entertainment occasionally, and wise words at other times.

Like most of Kukunoor’s films – particularly his last one Iqbal, this picture too is at its core an emotional and heart-warming story. Looking at it from one point of view – as Gul Panag’s story, you might compare it to Iqbal in the sense that it is about the victory of human goodness and about achieving the impossible with sincerity.

From the other persective – as Ayesha Takia’s story – it’s about love, loss and redemption. Either way you look at it, it’s difficult not to be moved by the plot because both protagonists are real flesh-and-blood characters in relatable situations.

Now if you’re looking for holes, you won’t be disappointed. For one, the film’s too long especially in the first half which seems to drag on incessantly. I’m also tempted to complain that I’d have liked for the story to have dwelled a little more on the actual murder and the circumstances under which it happened.

For me, that backstory would have added real dimension to the plot and would have also eliminated that element of uncertainty over whether the murder was an accident or not – which is what the film seems to suggest at times.

But clearly Kukunoor isn’t telling a story about murder or why it happened. Evidently he doesn’t want to go down that road because HIS story is about the REPERCUSSIONS of that murder – he wants us to focus on the two women whose lives have changed because of that murder.
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Well, fair enough, that’s the director’s prerogative. But as a viewer I couldn’t help feeling a little cheated because he chose to keep those bits murky. Of course my real BIG problem with Dor is my inability to understand the motivation behind Ayesha’s eventual decision.

Does she make that decision because she has a big heart, does she do it to spite her in-laws who’re about to sell her off, or does she do it because she’s unhappy about her own life? If Dor is meant to celebrate largesse of heart, then I’m sorry that’s not what I got from Ayesha’s final decision.

In fact, I feel the writers took the easy way out by giving her so many issues that she was bound to make the choice that she did. I mean, I didn’t even have to think for a moment to guess correctly what decision she was going to make.

Despite its flaws, Dor doesn’t exactly sink. It’s an intimate and personal story that’s set to a sprawling scale. Sudeep Chatterjee’s camerawork is picture-perfect from start to finish, Salim-Sulaiman’s score is haunting to say the least, and Kukunoor once again inserts these little gems that warm the cockles of your heart.

One of my favourite scenes in the film is of the three main characters breaking into an impromptu performance of Kajra Re in the desert – it’s a scene that so beautifully illustrates the point Kukunoor has been making in virtually all his films – that even in the most trying of times, even in the face of adversity, life can be beautiful – even if only for a few moments.

Of his three leads, Gul Panag is competent. I suspect her voice has been dubbed in the film, but it doesn’t really take away from what she ultimately delivers. Shreyas Talpade in his first Hindi film since Iqbal, proves he’s an immensely gifted actor who makes even buffoonery so endearing.

But the one who leaves an indelible impression all over this film is Bollywood up-and-comer Ayesha Takia who brings that child-woman quality to her role and just disarms you with the sincerity she uses to attack her part.

Easily her best performance since her debut in Socha Na Tha, Ayesha stands up and delivers. The film itself is noble and well-intended and for that alone it deserves a viewing. True Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dor is a film that’s far from perfect, but it’s one that at least tries to achieve greatness. It’s nowhere as magnificent an achievement as Iqbal, but it’s certainly way above the ordinary.

Rating: 3/5 (Good)

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