The train station finale, always wonderful.
Just like the enjoyable Paheli, Dor (String) is a feminist treatise set in the heart of patriarchal Rajasthan. While Paheli was a song-and-dance folk tale that used fantasy to make its point, Dor tells a much more real story of female empowerment through the unlikely bond created by two very different women. First, there is Zeenat (Gul Kirat Panag), independent, strong-willed and Muslim, hailing from mountainous Himachal Pradesh. Then, there is Meera (Ayesha Takia), subdued, dainty, Hindu, living with her husband's family in Rajasthan. Both women are happily married, and both women's husbands go to Saudi Arabia in hopes of bettering their fortunes. An ironic and tragic turn of events occurs when Meera's husband falls from an apartment window, and Zeenat's husband is accused of pushing him. Since the husbands had been roommates and friends, Zeenat is convinced her husband is innocent. Yet the only way she can free him of the death penalty is if she receives a signed pardon from Meera.
Zeenat in Himachal Pradesh.
Meera and her husband in Rajasthan. The director was fond of these back-to-us shots.
Thus Zeenat embarks on a crazy quest armed only with a picture of the two husbands and her iron will: to find Meera and obtain her signature. Along the way, she meets Behroopiya (Shreyas Talpade), an itinerant conman-slash-actor with a heart of gold and talent for impressions. For hardcore and in-the-know fans, Talpade will no doubt be a joy for us. As hardcore as we are, we are hardly in the know, and hence the only impression we picked up on was one of the lovely, the amazing Pran.
The story seems brief and simple compared to other Hindi cinema fare. Slowly and hesitantly, the women strike up a friendship. Things are put on trial when the Ugly Truth comes out, but there are few hysterics or melodrama. The only gasp-worthy moment is when Meera's father-in-law plans to prostitute her off in order to keep get money to buy back his sweet ancestral pad. Yes, the pad is sweet, we agreed, but WTF?! Meera's reaction is much the same, as is the sympathetic grandmother's.
A sweet reinvention of one of our favorite songs.
The performances are uniformly restrained. Both the leads are likable, with Zeenat's slight extroversion just a couple notches louder than Meera's slight introversion. Shreyas Talpade is charmingly hammy as the conman-with-a-heart-of-gold. The director was fond of direct, head-on close-ups, in retrospect, giving things a nice air of childlike inquisitiveness.
Not as big and brash as its Bollywood brothers, nor as depressingly gritty as ye olde Parallel stuff, Dor is a nice, family-oriented film that promises and delivers something small but effective. It's not really escapist, but it makes for a nice viewing nonetheless.
Shah Rukh Khan's presence, almost mockingly pop in this film of realities.