What happens when a friendship is born out of loss, suffering, and grief? What happens when two people encounter each other during the most testing time of their lives? Nagesh Kukunoor‘s Dor (2006) attempts to find an answer this question. The story is about two women, Meera (Ayesha Takia) and Zeenat (Gul Panag), who stem from different geographical locations, cultures, lifestyles. Meera is an innocent, naïve woman living in the heart of Jodhpur and Zeenat is the modern-day lady living life by her own choices in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. But there comes a time when their lives take a terrible turn and put them at a strange crossroads, a point from where they can either make or break. Meera loses her husband (Shankar) to an accident in Saudi Arabia for which Zeenat’s husband (Amir) is wrongfully put behind bars. Zeenat can save him from a death sentence only by getting Meera to sign a ‘maafinama‘ (pardon letter). This marks the beginning of a long voyage to Jodhpur, where Zeenat attempts to find Meera and, for starters, to befriend her.
Mind you, Meera and Zeenat have polar opposite worldviews. Meera has always lived her life confined within the shackles of society and the conservatism of her family. But this doesn’t stop her from finding little moments of happiness in life. Then there is Zeenat, a fiercely independent woman, who believes that a person has all the power and, more so, the responsibility to shape his/her/their own life. The two encounter each other, exchange a conversation, and build a friendship. A friendship that is free of prejudices. Neither of them judges the other’s way of living – they understand that it is all a result of conditioning and past experiences. They spend a lot of time sharing long conversations, going on walks, sneaking out to local fairs, going to cinema halls and snacking corners, and so on. And in the middle of all this, they share their life’s philosophy, memories, etc.
Like any other human relationship, their relation too is based on needs. Zeenat has a definitive purpose of getting the pardon letter signed, and Meera is in desperate need of some positive company. But despite these fundamental needs, they take care of each other with all their heart. They go out of their way to help each other get to a better place in life. In fact, for a considerable amount of time, Zeenat forgets her primary goal and simply engages in helping Meera re-live a little. She empathetically counsels her to take charge of her own life. But Zeenat doesn’t have time at hand. A confrontation awaits, a confrontation that breaks Meera’s trust and makes Zeenat leave Jodhpur empty-handed.
But what follows is a heart-warming turn of events that simply proves the spirit of their friendship. Meera’s kindness prevails. I believe it is her love for Zeenat that motivates her to sign the maafinama. There is a scene that follows where Meera reads a letter from Zeenat. Zeenat tells Meera that she in fact isn’t going empty-handed, because Meera has given her a wonderful friendship to take back. She comforts Meera by saying that even though Amir will be given a death sentence, eventually life will become normal and she will resume living it like she used to. She also tells Meera that she hopes for her to find the freedom and courage to celebrate life, not just survive it. That was the point where I fell in love with their friendship.
Throughout the movie, Zeenat and Meera go through a series of disagreements, confrontations and ordeals. But what stays is their friendship. They save each other in most ways possible. Meera gives Zeenat her husband, while Zeenat offers Meera a whole new life. I often wonder how things would have panned out if these two characters lacked understanding and compassion for each other. Thankfully, they didn’t. They decided to understand each other’s plight even when their circumstances could have easily turned them into stubborn, insensitive human beings. They constantly looked out for each other, respected each other and, together, hoped for a better tomorrow. A hope that is also wonderfully encapsulated in Salim-Sulaiman’s ‘Yeh Honsla.’
There are many things that Nagesh Kukunoor has got right with Dor, from the brilliantly shot landscapes to the beautifully written screenplay and the phenomenal performances by the actors. But years later when I reminisce about this movie, I am sure that Zeenat and Meera’s friendship is going to shine – like it always did.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.