There comes a time in every movie reviewer's life when he has to face the daunting task of writing a review for a film he absolutely loved. How does he tell you, dear reader, that you must go and see Dor? Should he beg, cajole or threaten you? Should he wax eloquent about the sincerity of story or the brilliance of performance? I am stumped. But, I will try.
Dor tells the story of two women from very different backgrounds, Zeenat (Gul Panag) and Meera (Ayesha Takia), whose lives become intertwined because of a cruel turn of fate.
Zeenat is a strong-willed and independent villager from Himachal Pradesh. She marries Aamir knowing that there will be resistance from his parents, though you are never told why. Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, Aamir gives an ultimatum to his parents - accept Zeenat as a daughter-in-law or lose a son. As time goes by, Zeenat wins the trust and respect of her in-laws.
Meera is a young Rajput bride, brought up to respect the traditions of the family she is married into. The patriarch of the house (Girish Karnad), her father-in-law, has only one obsession in life - paying back the debt on his family haveli and getting it back. This obsession fuels not only him, but his son Shankar (Meera's husaband) as well. To fulfil his father's dream Shankar must work in a faraway country and send money home.
Young Meera takes the parting with her husband in her stride. Her father-in-law's word is the law of the house, and no one dare oppose him.
And then disaster strikes. Shankar falls to his death from a high-rise building, the circumstances surrounding his death shrouded in mystery. His roommate is arrested and charged with Shankar's murder. A death sentence is passed.
The roommate is Aamir. Zeenat now has to find Shankar's widow and beg for Aamir's life (under Arabic law the widow of the deceased can pardon her husband's killer). Armed only with a photograph of Shankar and Aamir (who were friends) she has to make the futile journey to the far-flung state of Rajasthan to find and convince a complete stranger to give back the life of her husband.
Meanwhile, Meera's life has taken a turn for the worse. Already a widow, she now leads a life of servitude, her freedom a distant thought she dare not dream about.
And then there is Behroopiya (Shreyas Talpade) - a con-man with a heart of gold. A sense of purposelessness in life inspires him to help Zeenat trace Meera. And thus the story gets woven with the delicate threads of human emotions.
The Indian film industry has a lot of stars, but very few actors. Shreyas Talpade will perhaps never become a star. And let's all take a minute and thank the Universe for this blessing, because here we finally have the real thing.
His Behroopiya takes an already enchanting symphony to a crescendo of dizzying heights. His vocal range leaves the viewer spell-bound. (How strange then, that he started his film career playing a deaf and mute cricketer.)
The movie starts off slowly, but gathers pace and energy and never lets it go. Dor is a remake of the National Award winning Malayalam Perumazhakkalam, and Nagesh Kukunoor has done it as well as the original. Also watch out for his slightly villainous cameo.
Both the leading ladies deliver solid performances along with the rest of the supporting cast (Girish Karnad, Pratiksha Lonkar). Salim-Sulaiman's music is incidental, and flawlessly fits the milieu of the film.
That this movie will be a critical success is never in doubt. Commercially, however, the film is likely to have limited audiences - the ones who go to the multiplexes, as the release schedule of this one in town indicates (just one show per day, at PVR). The rating therefore is for the discerning ones - this is what is normally referred to as parallel cinema.
Yet, if I had the means to buy a ticket for you and escort you to the theater personally, I would do it. What more can I say?
Go watch this film - as many times as you can. I am doing it myself.