By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Film: "Dor"; Starring: Gul Panag, Ayesha Takia, Shreyas Talpade; Director: Nagesh Kukunoor; Rating: **** 1/2
How far would you go for love? That's the question the narrative of "Dor" 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 Nagesh Kukunoor creation. But nothing he has done so far - neither the under-rated "Teen Deewarein" nor 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 deserts 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. He never loses out on that wonderful quality of cinematic splendour that separates poetry from sermons.
Join Zeenat then on her bizarre impossible quest to find a 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 is so keen that you tend to stare not at the screen, but at feelings and emotions that aren't visible. Sudeep Chatterjee, Munish Sappal, Sanjeev Dutta and Salim-Suleiman have done a marvellous job through their cinematography, art direction, editing and music.
From the initial scenes of tender bonding 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 provides a subliminal text to the narrative's inner world where ideologies and 'isms' fade, only pain, hurt and betrayal remains.
There are moments of unbearable poignancy in the film. The sequence where the child-woman, who is transformed to a wan widow from a bright bride in months, opens her dead husband's suitcase is remarkable and creates 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 symbolises her shattered world.
Scenes of female bonding between Ayesha Takia and her dead husband's grandmother (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, with 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 cell phone in the village, or the one where she furtively dances to "You're my sonia" stay etched beyond the frames.
However, one wishes that 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 an 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 human 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".
Bollywood.com Rating: 3
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