Monday, 14 June 2010

Rajasthan - Dor

I've just come back from work trips to Bruges and Toulouse, this being the busiest time of the year for me, which has meant that I've had no time for blogging and very little opportunity to learn about Rajasthan!  I've had a day off today though and it gave me the chance to watch the film Dor (String), directed by Nagesh Kukunoor and set, mostly, in Rajasthan.

It's a really beautiful movie.  Not Bollywood, but rather a very tender drama concerning the lives of two Indian women.  One of them is a very strong-willed and independent woman called Zeenat from Himachal Pradesh.  The character is played by the beautiful Gul Panag, a former Miss India and incredibly talented actress.  The second woman is a young and naive Hindu girl from Rajasthan called Meera, played by Ayesha Takia, who has married into a strict and repressive Rajput family that has seen better times.

The husbands of both women move to Saudi Arabia to work and send much-needed cash back home.  The two men become friends (not shown in the movie), but an accident happens and the Hindu man, Meera's husband, falls from an apartment window and is killed.  Zeenat's husband is accused of the murder and sentenced to death.  The only way that Zeenat can save her husband, under Saudi law, is by tracking down the victim's widow, Meera and convincing her to sign a reprieve. 

The movie then follows Zeenat's journey to Rajasthan, where she is befriended by a bahuroopiya, or conman, played by one of the director's favourite actors, Shreyas Talpade.  Although he initially takes advantage of her, the bahuroopiya feels sorry for Zeenat and eventually agrees to help her find Meera.  Although she is rejected by her family, Zeenat manages to form a friendship with Meera, under false pretences, leading to an inevitable revelation of her real purpose and Meera's difficult decision as to whether or not she should save the man who killed her husband. 

I love novels and movies that contain mirrored episodes and this movie is full of them.  When Zeenat is shown, a highly independent woman, repairing her the outside of her house in Himachal Pradesh, a mirrored scene shows Meera being locked away inside a sprawling haveli in Rajasthan.  If Himal Pradesh is everything cool and green about the mountains, then Rajasthan is the scorching heat of the desert.  There is a balance of happiness and despair, Urdu and Hindi, a determined and brave Muslim woman and a repressed, frightened Hindu girl.  The overarching message is that only women can bring all of India's contradictions together.  The men are responsible for the conflict in the movie.  The women are the ones who can bring back some kind of peace.

Although well received by critics, Dor didn't do terribly well at the Indian box office.  It's a shame really, as I think more people should have the chance to see this touching and insightful film.

Image credits:

The photo of the blue buildings of Jodhpur is by freelance photographer and flickruser ~FreeBirD®~ a.k.a. Mani Babbar, who's from London.  You can see more of his photos at http://www.flickr.com/people/maniya/
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