A Nagesh Kukunoor film needs no introduction. Associated with qualitative cinema over the years, the one thing that binds all Kukunoor films is the emphasis on content. In DOR, his new outing, the efficient storyteller tells the story of two women, reportedly based on a real-life incident.
If IQBAL, his last effort, looked at the sport and the politics that came with it as also the story of an underdog who aspires to play cricket on the national level, Kukunoor changes tracks in DOR. Sensitively handled with bravura performances from the entire cast, this one's a triumph for everyone associated with it.
More than anything else, Kukunoor ought to be complimented for having the courage to make his kind of cinema. A number of scenes in DOR leave you spellbound and the locales of Rajasthan only give DOR a distinct flavor.
But there' a flipside to DOR as well.
DOR caters to a niche audience. It seems, Kukunoor has targeted his film for an audience that's not in the majority. Although handled with utmost sensitivity, you cannot close your eyes to the fact that the execution of the material would appeal to a tiny segment of viewers. And also the Festival circuit.
Awards and glowing critical acclaim, yes, DOR has the power to win it. But box-office rewards and a mandate from the aam junta will elude it. The lethargic pacing will also go against it.
DOR tells the story of love, loss, friendship, hope and ultimately, redemption. It is a tale of two women from two different worlds.
In ways that neither Zeenat nor Meera can perceive, their worlds are about to collide. A life-changing piece of news reaches both women at the same instance and sets into motion a series of events that will change their lives forever.
Zeenat [Gul Panag] is compelled to make the long journey from the hills of Himachal Pradesh to Rajasthan's deserts, in search of Meera [Ayesha Takia]. Along the way she encounters a Behroopiya [Shreyas Talpade], whose uncanny instincts and good humor help to make the difficult journey easier.
As different as they are, Zeenat and Meera form an uncommon bond of friendship and respect when they meet. But can it endure the uneasy truth that Zeenat hides? One of these women will hold the power of life and death in her hands. One will be helpless at the hands of fate.
DOR is an intense/serious subject that has been handled with utmost sincerity. In fact, it's difficult to single out any one sequence in particular since DOR has a consistency that's visible from start to end. Yet, it must be noted that you can't ignore the remarkable executed sequences between the two women. Kukunoor also pads the proceedings with light moments in the form of Shreyas, whose mimicry of various actors is quite enjoyable.
Kukunoor's choice of the subject is laudable and otherwise too, you cannot find technical faults vis---vis the way story unfolds. The culmination to the story is also justified and instead of beating around or taking its own sweet time to come to the point, the end is just right. But DOR tends to get dry and heavy at regular intervals and even the slow pacing tests the patience of the viewer.
The music is traditional and although it's in sync with the genre of the film, it has its limitations. The background score [Salim-Sulaiman] is effective in parts. The camerawork does justice to the scenic beauty of Rajasthan. The ambience [art: Muneesh Sappal] deserves special mention. His work in PINJAR, PAHELI and DOR proves that there's a lot of detailing involved.
DOR is embellished with noteworthy performances. Gul Panag dominates the first hour and Ayesha Takia the second. Gul is tremendous in a role that offers her ample scope to showcase her talent. Ayesha is only emerging into a powerhouse performer with every film. Also, she has the courage to swim against the tide by accepting a non-glamorous role, which most actors don't do at the start of their career.
Shreyas springs a pleasant surprise. To stand out in a women-dominated theme is indeed tough and the young actor manages to register a strong impact. Girish Karnad is flawless yet again. Nagesh Kukunoor is perfect.
On the whole, DOR is a well-made film that caters to those with an appetite for qualitative cinema. While the film will win glowing reviews and praise from the gentry, its appeal will be restricted to the elite at select multiplexes. Awards yes, box-office rewards no!