Tuesday, September 26, 2006


What a rare treat in India! A film without a man-woman romantic interest at its heart, a film tenous in the pursuit of its story, a film without any visual or musical distractions, a film with the rare good feat of both making you laugh and cry, a film unique in its story and yet not strumpeting itself, a film which is really able to accord respect to women in its two strong-minded and strong-spirited women protagonists - need I say more?
It all begins with the title - Dor. The title is so aptly chosen - the delicate string that connects apparently a fiercely independent woman (Gul Panag) from the mountains of Himachal Pradesh to the strong-spirited, joyful, innocent girl (Ayesha Takia) from the raw deserts of Rajasthan, from the keen mountain air that moves your impulses to the conservative, stuffy air of Rajasthan, where girls are often thrown in wells as soon as they are born - the delicate string that binds a man and a woman, to keep which taut a woman (Panag) can go into the unknown, know no fear, bear all insults and the world of men, trust herself more than the God, be prepared to even accept an impostor's help - the delicate string that connects any good person to other person, any of this mankind to another, one which cannot be broken unless by severing it, one which as long as it is remains a testimony to the surviving humanity in that person, and one which can at the same time redeem human values in other people - the delicate string of circumstances which bind together an educated woman, an innocent already-married child, and an impostor into one common, kindred bond.
I had always wanted to see Gul Panag in a good, befitting role. The film Dhoop was a disappointment in that respect. But, here, Gul finally gets the role which only she is fit for in the Indian film industry - at the same time mentally strong, intelligent, able to take care of herself, and tender. Shreyas Talpade has you in splits more than any Munnabhais can do - it's a simple, unsophisticated, and, in fact, much tried-and-tested humor, and yet, he succeeds, primarily because he has it in him to make you laugh, he is doing his role sincerely and has worked hard on it (although he has not much of a role in the film), and of course, the dialogue-writer, the director, the person whoever has selected those disguises, all have really worked to make the bahrupiya (impostor) lovable. And, of course, the star is the much under-rated Ayesha Takia. I liked her first when I saw her in Socha Na Tha (with Abhay Deol - another fine, honest actor, though not at all hero-like) - she knows her acting, she doesn't get carried away, she knows the delivery of dialogue, she has got a good, winning smile, she looks innocent inspite of that sexy Telugu song which she shot to resurrect her career (I believe it was a Telugu film) and yet desirable, and, most importantly, she's not affected, she's not proud (I don't mean here the tantrums that stars and starlets are famous for; what I mean is the sort of pride that creeps in an actor when he begins to know himself or herself as a good actor - the real nemesis of Amitabh since he became hit). She plays the role of the village belle to perfection, the joyful girl who is still a child at heart, who wishes to live her life fully and joyfull still, who has not been numbed by the death of her husband, whose life is being 'made over' by the society in which she lives, although it is not over in her heart. And, lastly, Nagesh Kukunoor himself is suited to the hilt to his cameo role.
Other strengths - a beautiful music, good cinematography, aesthetic and not opulent visually, brilliant development of the characters of all three (Panag, Takia, and Talpade) - and for this a real thanks to the director that even in such a simple, bare story he did not go for cutting down the length of the film (Hollywood should learn something from this - preening over their 'value of time' give you only brainless things like Mr. Bean or a baseball match, not a Ben Hur or an Eng-Aus Test match), minimal peripheral characters, faithfulness to the story with absolutely no distractions. The only weakness that I felt was related to the Rajasthan that they have shown - I was disappointed that no one was speaking in the commonly spoken Rajasthani way in the film; without it, it was not an authentic Rajasthan at all. Another was Takia calling her husband by his name - I really don't think that in a conservative Rajasthan village, this can be a norm. I think, quite a major blip from the filmmakers, at least for me. Maybe, they wanted to show Takia's character as inherently modern, but if a girl has been taught some things from her childhood as right and wrong, and she follows some of those things only for the sake of it or for the sake of the society she lives (after all, she might be questioning them in her mind), she doesn't become unmodern.