Revisiting Dor: An official remake of the Malayalam film, ‘Perumazhakkalam’, Dor single handedly attempted to stir up conversations on feminism and women empowerment back in 2006, in the manner no other mainstream Bollywood movie had attempted before.

Set in the atmosphere of precipitous patriarchy, this movie follows the journey of two women while they deal with regressive norms. This film is majorly about the magnanimous nature of a woman’s heart and the impact of the same in other women’s lives. While showcasing that, the film also provides a commentary about how the status of women in society ends up being defined by her marital status, which gradually becomes the highlight of the film, and a topic, unfortunately, relevant even today.

Dor’s plot centers on the loss of Meera’s (Ayesha Takia) husband, Shankar, in an accident in Saudi Arabia. Zeenat’s (Gul Panag) husband, Amir, is charged for this accident and is awarded the death sentence as punishment. Per the plot, according to the law of Saudi Arabia, the only way Amir can avoid death, is if Meera signs the mercy petition and forgives Amir. As this plot plays out, we witness one of the most beautiful takes on friendship, forgiveness and feminism.

While undertaking a memorable, ‘jump of honesty’, this film leaves behind countless religious and regressive ties bound by a woman’s marital status and breaks open a new dimension of cinema in Bollywood.  Simple films that make bold statements are rare finds in Bollywood, and Dor embodies this with ease. The characterisation, the dialogues, the cinematography, the acting, the screenplay and the music make this movie thoroughly engaging.

Few of the highlights of this film for us, were:

  1. Characterisation - Meera: Ayesha Takia does a refreshing job in her role as Meera and provides the audience with what is, in our view, her best performance till date. Meera is the kind of person who likes to dance to Bollywood music, loves desserts and is filled with innocence. This is balanced with another reality: Meera lives inside a cage bound by patriarchal and regressive norms, which normalizes her belief that the string of her life is in a man’s hand – be it her husband, who she thinks will free her from the ‘jail’ that she is in, or her father in law, who enforces patriarchal customs against her. The conditioning here is so deeply rooted that Meera doesn’t find anything unusual in this. The moments where we get to see how Meera’s mindset actually functions are during her interactions with Zeenat. The movie does a beautiful job in portraying the journey of Meera’s self-actualisation, as we watch her realise where this string of her life actually belongs. A few scenes featuring Meera will actually blow you away for their simplicity.
  1. Characterisation - Zeenat: Zeenat is the polar opposite of Meera: she is independent, fierce, unapologetic and driven. She makes her own decisions and lives by her choices. She takes charge of things she wants to fix, for example, when she goes on an unpredictable journey, trying to find a woman in a desert. It’s refreshing to watch a character who is not looking for a man to save her from societial shackles and she has some of the best dialogues in the film, which we notice stem from her own life experiences. Zeenat is literally the closeted feminist that lives inside most people, and she boldly highlights the ordeals women face on a daily basis. Zeenat makes the boldest statements on feminism and empowerment of women, and shows us how no other considerations should dictate a woman’s life, but the woman herself. The dialogue exchange between Zeenat and Meera, and Zeenat and Bahuroopiya are the best parts of the movie as it manages to give you a holistic take on the entire situation.
  1. Characterisation - Bahuroopiya and Dadi Ma: The movie garners strength and support from supportive characters like Dadima and Bahuroopiya who act as a support in the personal quests of Meera and Zeenat respectively. Dadima is an empathetic widowed lady who starts off as someone who is jealous of Meera for living her life, but then slowly turns into an empathetic support to a person who she cannot see rot in the household run by regressive patriarchal norms. Dadima and Meera’s conversations are secure, supportive and heart-warming. Bahuroopiya, played by Shreyas Talpade, brings a man into the narrative – one who is there to support Zeenat’s journey, not because a woman needs it, but because he has to go somewhere and he has nothing better to do than to help this other person out. Throughout this journey, he receives lessons on the struggles that a woman goes through on a daily basis and ends up becoming a part of some extremely mature conversations. This portrayal of a man becoming a part of Zeenat’s journey is raw, real, natural and more than anything beautiful.

  2. Dialogues and screenplay: The dialogues and screenplay of this movie by Nagesh Kukunoor and Mir Ali Hussain are the highlights of this movie as they resonate with the public at large till date. They are not strident, nor do they shout slogans on woman empowerment or feminism. Yet, they manage to make compelling and memorable feminist statements. It is difficult to pick a favourite conversation or scene from this film, as all of it seems beautiful and important, thanks to the amazing execution. From a discussion on how sorrow is subjective and how pain cannot be measured, to taking the ‘jump of honesty’ and taking the string of life in your own hand, all of it is portrayed in the most top-notch manner and helps in bringing out the characters’ nature and their situation perfectly.

We recommend this film because it reminds us of how important it is to respect ourselves and prioritise our own interests and dignity over everything else. We recommend watching this movie to help refocus perspective on your privilege, feminism, and particularly, to understand the struggles women sometimes go through to achieve the smallest of things – for instance, as brilliantly shown in one of the most powerful scenes of this film, to freely dance.