Dor (2006)


Dor is one of those rare gems in Indian cinema – a film with strong female characters and an engaging story that keeps you hooked right to the end. There are excellent performances from all the cast and the visuals are stunning with beautiful shots of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.  It’s a story that contains many aspects of love and friendship, but it also shines a light on the life of women in rural India and the harsh realities of losing the protection of a husband in a patriarchal society. 

The film tells the story of Zeenat (Gul Panag) and Meera (Ayesha Takia), two completely different women in matters of personality and culture, and how their lives become intertwined.  Despite their many differences the two women also have some commonality as they are both recently married and their husbands have left to work in the Middle East.  In the opening scenes, director and writer Nagesh Kukunoor uses similar events in the lives of the two women to illustrate differences in their temperament and situation which rather neatly gives the bare bones of the plot, as well as introducing the characters.


Gul Panag suits the character of Zeenat and perfectly captures her stubborn independence.  Zeenat is a Muslim woman from a small town in Himachal Pradesh who is determined to live life on her own terms and maintain her freedom.  For example, when her suitor Aamir (Rushad Rana) comes courting Zeenat rejects his advances in favour of repairing her house – personally I would have put him to work! This down-to-earth practicality and lack of sentimentality is repeated throughout the film which has the effect of making the few romantic moments much sweeter as a result of their rarity.

Despite her independent nature, Zeenat does love Aamir and when word comes that he has been detained in prison for the suspected crime of killing his room-mate, she immediately springs to his defence.  Zeenat is convinced that the death must have been an accident and is dismayed to learn that Aamir has been sentenced to death unless she can obtain a pardon from the wife of the dead man.  Zeenat has a close relationship with the local Imam and takes his advice on how to track down the young woman who may be the means to Aamir’s freedom. 


Although she doesn’t know anything about the woman’s whereabouts, Zeenat heads off to Rajasthan with a small bag, a photograph of the two men and a huge amount of determination and optimism.  Her faith in the universe seems to be answered when she meets up with a Behroopiya (Shreyas Talpade) despite the fact that at their first meeting he tricks and robs her.  However it is the Behroopiya who does manage to lead her in the right direction to find Meera. 


Throughout the opening scenes with Zeenat, we are also introduced to Meena and her very different outlook on life.  Meera is happily married to Shankar (Anirudh Jaykar) and has no problems living within the confines of a strictly traditional family in Rajasthan.  Ayesha Takia portrays Meena as young and innocent, flirting as she dances joyously for her husband, and becoming upset that he is leaving to work abroad.  Her youth is also shown in her pride that it is her husband who is earning the money which will buy back the family’s ancestral home.  However as the story progresses and Meena finds out that Shankar has been killed, she exhibits maturity along with strength and resilience as her world crumbles around her.


Ayesha Takia is very impressive in a role that demands  her character go through a major upheaval in her life and cope with the aftermath.  She makes the transition from young wife to virtual living non-entity as a widow very naturally and brings out every emotion as Meera has to deal with her new status in life.  Her reaction to the suitcase of her husbands clothes is perfectly nuanced and her moments of joy as she discovers friendship are beautifully acted.  It’s not surprising that she won a number of awards for her performance here.  One of my favourite moments is when she dances in the desert with Zeenat and the Behroopiyah – perfect!

Although at times the contrasts between the two women seems a little too contrived, for the most part the juxtaposition of their different lives works well. The grief and devastation shown by Meera for the double blows of the death of her husband and her loss of freedom is realistically portrayed while Zeenat’s self-contained grief is tempered with her determination and drive to save her husband at all costs.  Both actors seem very well suited to their roles, and Shreyas Talpede adds just the right amount of comic relief as the Behroopiya.  This character appears to be some kind of a guardian angel or possibly just an embodiment of Zeenat’s subconscious, as he watches over Zeenat and gives her advice.  It’s effective, especially when added into the more dream-like landscape of Rajasthan. 


DorThere is one misstep in the film with the director playing a sleazy businessman who is renting the house in Rajasthan.  His repellent suggestion to Meera’s father in law feels filmi and false compared to the rest of the screenplay, although otherwise both Girish Karnad and Prateeksha Lonkar are excellent in the roles of Meera’s in-laws.

The background score by Salim – Sulaiman Merchant is beautiful and although there are no song and dance numbers the dancing within the film is spontaneous and just wonderful. This is another excellent song which shows Zeenat’s journey from Himachal Pradesh along with Meera’s symbolic journey from wife to widow.

Although not credited, Dor is based on a Malayalam film Perumazhakkalam which perhaps explains the quality of the story.  I’m still trying to track down a copy of this original film with English subtitles as it also won numerous awards and I’d like to compare the two.  However, Dor is still an enchanting film and the two leads ensure that the quality of the acting is as impressive as the screenplay and Sudeep Chatterjee’s gorgeous cinematography.  Although there is an underlying theme relating to the plight of women and their lack of value in some parts of India, it’s counterbalanced by Zeenat’s fierce independence and fighting spirit, so Dor never feels too preachy or morally worthy.  it’s a simple tale, beautifully told and I thoroughly recommend it.  4 ½ stars.


Om Shanti Om

Farah Khan is one of the very few directors currently working in Bollywood who is making our kind of masala movie.  We loved Main Hoon Na and since her next project, Tees Maar Khan, is about to release it seems fitting to start our Christmas silly season with one of the last great masala films we saw in the cinema – Om Shanti Om (OSO).

SRK plays Om Prakash Makhija, a junior artiste who, along with his friend Pappu (Shreyas Talpade), is struggling for work in Hindi films in the seventies. The film opens with a wonderful take on Rishi Kapoor’s Om Shanti Om from Karz which foreshadows the reincarnation romance drama musical about to unfold.  There is some clever use of the original footage and we felt right from the beginning that we were going to love this! The retro setting also lets Farah Khan and Red Chillies show off some fab CGI work in their tribute to past filmi legends.

Om falls in love with one of the big stars of the time, Shantipriya or Shanti, played by Deepika Padukone.  Naturally, since this is after all Bollywood, such a romance is destined to face obstacles, as Shantipriya is a big star and Om is a nobody.

There are some wonderful scenes where Om woos Shanti, both heart-wrenchingly romantic and hilarious, particularly the scenes when he pretends to be a Southern Indian film star breaking into Bollywood. This was fun at the time, but even better now that we have had the opportunity to see where Farah took her inspiration from! Shanti is secretly married to sleazy Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal) and this of course presents both a barrier to Om’s happiness, and a great opportunity for some excellent SRK emoting.

Inevitably, Om discovers Shantipriya’s secret and his heart is broken.  Again Farah Khan manages to take some poignant moments and intersperse them with some classic filmi devices to make the resulting song both sad and funny.

Since Om is the hero, he still fights to save Shanti when Mukesh determines she must die to protect his own career.  Om is badly injured in the confrontation and dies (eventually) in a nearby hospital, at the exact same time as big star Rajesh Kapoor’s wife is delivered of a son. A son who has a mysterious birthmark that looks a lot like a significant tattoo. Yes!

This baby grows into Om Kapoor; a spoilt self-indulgent actor resting on his father’s laurels and a trial to all who know him. Adored by his fans, he feels that he can do no wrong until he remembers his past life, grows up a little and resolves to bring about justice for his lost love, Shantipriya.

There is plenty of comedy, particularly for anyone who knows something about the films, actors and different factions in Bollywood.  There are many sly digs at the industry’s predilection for nepotism, all tongue in cheek and very funny! SRK is not exempt from Farah’s sharp wit: as he arrives for a film shoot, one of the bystanders comments “I thought he’d be taller”. Kirron Kher is in fine form as Om’s ‘filmi’ mother, and she has some fabulous scenery chewing moments. Shreyas Talpade and SRK have some fun scenes together and really seemed to enjoy hamming it up as junior artistes.

Although a lot of the humour is contained in the dialogues, there are plenty of physical gags, and even the sad scenes have an element of comedy.  While Farah Khan is poking fun at the very typical filmi devices, she is also acknowledging these older films that she clearly loves.  OSO is a paean to these masala greats and we were inspired to track down many of the scenes she referenced.

There is also plenty of drama.  While most of the scenes are deliberately over-acted to get as many laughs as possible, there were some genuinely moving moments.  The scenes between Om and his ‘filmi ma’ and his friendship with Pappu were given as much care and emotion as the romantic scenes with Shanti and the confrontations with Mukesh.  The film loses momentum a little towards the end, but only for a moment and it soon picks up the pace with the final Andrew Lloyd-Webber inspired showdown.

The entire film seems to have been written to display SRK at his best.  He brings every nuance of the role to life and manages seemingly effortlessly to turn scenes from happy to sad to totally ridiculous and have us following along accepting every ridiculous turn of the plot.

This was Deepika Padukone’s debut film and Farah Khan seems to have gotten much more out of her than any directors since.  Although she is wooden in her earlier scenes as Shantipriya, she suits her modern day character of Sandy better and she comes to life in the songs.

The support actors, in particular Shreyas Talpade and Arjun Rampal are well cast in their roles. Being a Farah Khan film, of course the songs are exceptionally well choreographed and filmed.  One of the things we appreciate Farah for is her determination that her leading men should be objectified as much as, if not a little more than, the glamorous heroines. She outdoes herself with Dard-e-Disco which has hilariously bad lyrics (apparently she kept telling Javed Akhtar to make his lyrics worse) and is full of gratuitous shots of SRK in, emerging from, and being doused with, water.

Any good masala film must also have great costumes, and OSO delivers in this regard.  The outfits from the 70’s are thoroughly of their period and stunning in their garishness and we loved them.  Shantipriya wears some beautiful clothes and the depiction of Om as an actor means we get to see him in an array of costumes.  There are plenty of fight scenes too, with the best reserved for the Southern Indian film episode.

Much of the film industry seems to have got behind Farah with her multi-starrer song Deewangi Deewangi.  It was a fantastic feat to get so many actors to take part, and we had great fun spotting some of the stars of yesteryear and their signature moves.  The satire on the Filmfare awards was partly filmed during the actual ceremony and it is very good humoured of both Filmfare and the array of famous actors to take part. We weren’t quite so enamoured of Bappi Lahiri’s singing on the red carpet but he is a legend in his own blinged up disco way.

The story of OSO is perhaps predictable, but the great performances and the exceptional production values more than make up for that.  We are quite sure that there are a lot more jokes in there that we just didn’t get, despite repeated viewings.  At the end of this film, we both looked at each other immediately said  ‘What the fish? Again – we want to watch it again!’

Heather says: I think I saw this film at least 5 times in the cinema. Farah is excellent at showcasing her obvious love of cinema, and while she pokes fun at the entire industry it’s not with any malice. As a director she seems to know exactly what her audience wants and then delivers. Although her story doesn’t make much sense that’s not what I remember from the film. Its much more about the humour, the costumes and the excellent performances on screen. Being a huge SRK fan I can (and have) watched him in really dreadful bad films, but it is so refreshing to watch him where the director knows how to get the very best out of every scene. I totally loved the songs by Vishal-Shekkar, and they still make me smile and dance when I play them to-day. The continual references back to older films were a huge plus, and the clever re-working of old clips in Dhoom Tana was fantastic! Everything works well together; the casting is right, fantastic songs and costumes, great choreography and all tied together by a great script. Om Shanti Om is exactly what masala means for me, including the lack of logic in the plot! Please Farah, can we have some more? 5 stars

Temple says: This film is like the very best kind of Easter Egg hunt. Everywhere you look there are sparkly little treats and jokes, and beautiful tributes to other much-loved films. I really enjoyed the nod to every filmi cliche that could possibly be used, and the cheerful ransacking of seminal images from Hindi films of the past. I also loved seeing Pyarelal back up in the credits and on the red carpet! The performances really were very good, from the headline stars to the smallest special appearance and I felt that all the performers shared a love of the 70s film industry and it’s products, so they seemed to give it their best. For all the cheesy fluff, the film-making team also did a very intelligent thing with the Om Shanti equation in the modern era by not making it a romance. Om had no intention of, um, completing his earlier relationship with the newer model, just of seeing justice done for his past life’s true love. It made me a lot more willing to sit through repeated viewings of the slightly draggy second half as there wasn’t that squick factor. I also enjoyed seeing SRK revel in his ability to portray unpleasant characters – he was cold, calculating and quite repellent as OK in some scenes, and got to use more than his lauded five expressions.

Farah Khan has great attention to detail and everything from the costumes (where on earth did they find all those fabulous fabrics?)  to the music suited her vision perfectly. And the now trademark exuberant closing credits were a perfect finish to a great journey and sent the cinema audience out on a high. I loved being swept up in this, and feeling that little bit clever for recognising some of the references. Would you appreciate this film if you knew nothing about its source materials? Yes, I think so. It has so much colour, energy, heart and humour that there is something for everyone. Well, no machetes but I can’t really begrudge that tiny lack. And I was certainly inspired to go find or re-watch some of the classic scenes pilfered for use in OSO. Farah Khan as brand ambassador for Masala Pradesh? She’s got my vote! 5 stars!