Freeze Frame #115: Dor

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 :-)

7 thoughts on “Freeze Frame #115: Dor

  1. The reason I mention Perumazhakkalam is because Dor is a remake of that film (as you may know). In the mallu version, I felt the story was portrayed with all it’s seriousness that it demanded while Kukunoor, for obvious commercial considerations, had to introduce other elements. Besides, a story premise that dealt with laws in Saudi Arabia obviously fits much better into the mallu milieu than Rajasthan. I mean, Kukunoor did a faithful job of making the remake, but the mallu original is a vastly superior film. The mainstream media in our country, not having the appropriate exposure (or interest?) to regional cinema, went overboard in it’s praise for Dor, IMHO.

    In general, what I love about mallu movies, especially serious movies, is the fact that there is a conscious effort to stick to the main elements of the story rather than play to the gallery. The stories are also often innovative and leave a deep impact. It also helps that there is an educated audience in Kerala for these types of films. Even a random comparison between a mainstream film like “Manichitrathazhu” and “Chandramukhi” will highlight all the points that I make. The performances are also much more subtle.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love films, period. But I also respect originality. However, I wear the mallu hat when I watch mallu films and wear the tamil, hindi hats when I watch the respective language films. It helps me to get a sense of perspective.

  2. Shankar,

    I’ll hold off on responding to that until I’ve seen the movie. But your comments in general, I agree with.

    As far as the comparison between Manichithirathazhu and its remakes is concerned, I think the problem varies depending on the remake. With Chandramukhi, the problem is that it stars Rajni, who is such a big star that space twists itself into knots around him, as Einstein might say. I wonder what they would do with Kadha Parayumbol now that they have Rajni in Mamooty’s role in the Tamil remake.

    With Bhool Bhulaiya, the problem was that, even if everything else was kept the same, Akshay Kumar is just so much better than Vidya Balan that the movie ends up being about him. A case in point: the scene where she shows him all the jewelry and costumes she found is used very effectively in Malayalam (and in Tamil, I felt), by showing the same moment first from behind her back, and then later from his POV, so you can see the madness in her eyes. I don’t think Vidya Balan was up to the task, because the Hindi version more or less does away with the latter POV.


  3. Shankar says:

    I completely understand the commercial considerations when Rajni stars in a movie. So, I wasn’t really trying to compare Manichitrathazhu and Chandramukhi because that wouldn’t be fair at all. However, what gets to me is Vasu proclaiming in his interviews that Chandramukhi is a re-make of Aapathmitra (which in turn is a rip-off of Manichitrathazhu) and hence, its all his creation and story idea. Now he is off to do the same butchering job of Kadha Parayumbol!! In my opinion, he is a vastly over-rated director who got lucky and gave some of the biggest hits in tamil cinema!! No wonder…his name is P(ee) Vasu!! :-)

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