Martin Scorsese’s The Departed begins with the following line uttered by Jack Nicholson: I do not want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.

To me, more than the plot itself (which is quite interesting), Dor is about two women on opposite sides of that choice. And about how one woman helps the other one step across the line to her side. It is beautifully shot, well-acted and deserves its payoff. Right at the end, when Meera finally steps through the gates of her haveli and into the open, you feel like standing up and cheering.

What makes the movie work is all those quiet scenes that set up the differences between the two characters. As Zeenat continues in her quest to find the woman whom her husband has allegedly widowed and seek her forgiveness (according to Saudi law, if the victim’s family forgives the criminal, he is set free), you realize, through all the little things she says and does, that she is completely at odds with the environment Meera lives in. Would a fiercely independent woman like Zeenat survive in the male-dominated Rajput world, you wonder.

The question is answered in part in the scene where Zeenat finally meets Meera’s in-laws. When she reveals that she is the wife of their son’s alleged murderer, their response is predictably inhospitable. Th deceased’s brother, in particular, seems to be full of an impotent, simmering rage. And when he just gets started on a tirade with a seething “Abey saali…” (loosely translated to “You bitch” here), she cuts him short with a quick “Zabaan sambhaalo apni!” (Mind your tongue).

The rebuke is delivered so switfly and with such authority and self-assurance that you realize that this isn’t a woman who has ever waited for freedom and equality to be given to her. As strong female characters go (and there are precious few in Hindi cinema), this one’s among the strongest I have seen.

ps: WordPress has a new “possibly related post” feature. It is unlikely that this feature will pick out these posts, so I’ll do it for them:

Memsaab Story: Top 5 heroine roles

Sanni: Top five Hindi film heroine roles (to me)

Of course, now that I have mentioned them, WordPress might pick them up anyway :-)