Monday, October 16, 2006

Dor - Kukunoor's coming of age

I watched Dor, Nagesh Kukunoor's latest, yesterday. The last two movies he's made (Iqbal and Dor) have given evidence to a maturity that was missing in many of his earlier ventures (Rockford, Hyderabad Blues for example). I've enjoyed both movies thoroughly, and find Kukunoor a director to watch out for - and here's why.

First up, I like the fact that Kukunoor's art is focused around telling the story, so everything else is but garnish and seasoning to the main hero: the tale that waits to be told. There is no gimmickry in the story-telling either - no plot twists by the second, no major sub-plots, no big stars, no random fights, no sudden baring of a heroine's fair midriff, no fashionable clothes, no foreign locales, no nothing. Just clean tellin' the story like it is. And it's completely enjoyable to watch the story as it unfolds, sans frills.

And this leads to the second - his excellent characterization. Dor moves at a languid pace, even more so than Iqbal. Kukunoor takes his time to develop the characters, but when the tale takes off, you know the characters like they were siblings. You love and hate them for the things they do; more importantly, you understand why they do them. And clearly, it needs great faith in your script and even greater faith in your abilities as a director to dare to linger over characters at a time when audiences are like babies who need cinematic rattles to constantly keep them focused. The characters are memorable - Gul Panag's strong Zeenat, Ayesha Takia's girlish Meera and Shreyas Talpade's chameleon-like behroopiya are etched in your mind - only because Kukunoor takes the time to give us a glimpse into their lives before getting on with the story.

And my third reason to like his recent work may have a lot to do with the second - he gets the best out of his actors. If Shreyas Talpade was a revelation in Iqbal, he continues to delight - his motormouth role more than makes up for his silence in his earlier film, and his mimicry is is truly chuckle-worthy. When his character summons Dutch courage to admit his love to Zeenat is a fabulous moment, one among several. He only plays second fiddle, though, to the two leading ladies, Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia. The memorability of their characters is partly due to the story-telling and characterization, but a large part is based on some terrific acting. And remember, till date, these were performers who'd made it in Bollywood primarily on the strength of their looks. To trust the script in their hands, and to bring out their best in de-glamorized roles must have been Kukunoor's most difficult, and to me, most admirable feat yet.

Sure, Dor had its faults. Yeah, the ending was DDLJ-esque and quite predictable. Maybe it could have been more tightly edited. All I can say is watch out for Kukunoor's next. It's as much in the telling of the tale, as it is in the tale itself, that a movie-maker's art lies. And Nagesh Kukunoor is slowly, but surely, becoming quite the artist.


Blogger Amit said...

True! Pretty neat movie. And good work by Kuknoor too!

I am still wondering if I liked Iqbal better than Dor! :)

11:19 PM  

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