The expectations were high for the second day of the Positive Psychology Symposium, and the movie screening today met that bar. Despite being held around lunch time, there were a considerable number of students lining up to watch Dor, the critically acclaimed 2006 Hindi remake of the Malayalam movie Perumazhakkalam.
The movie outlined the circumstances of two very different girls—Zeenat (Gul Panag), a woman who fights against the restraints of society, and Meera (Ayesha Takia), who’s trapped by those very manacles. Their lives run parallel as they’re forced to part with their husbands, who emigrate in search of work; they intersect when Zeenat’s husband is convicted for the murder of Meera’s. Only one thing can save him—a mercy petition signed by the widow.
Zeenat leaves her village in Himachal Pradesh and reaches Rajasthan in search for Meera and her mercy. Accompanied by the “behroopiya”, Shreyas Talpade, she locates the grieving widow, and the two form an unlikely friendship and a deep bond.
Zeenat has a dilemma—how can she tell her friend that she wants her to forgive her husband’s murderer? And Meera is trapped by the burden of the choice of letting Zeenat’s husband live, or die.
Dor is a wonderfully complex movie with intricate relationships, poignant themes, and beautiful multi-dimensional characters. The discussion that followed, moderated by Amrita ma’am, only served to highlight this further.
It began with Amrita ma’am pointing out the themes relevant to positive psychology—the ways in which Meera and Zeenat coped with loss through hope and love, the indispensable nature of emotional bonds, and the significance of forgiveness in healing, were all concepts that we were able to understand much better following the screening.
After providing a base for the discussion rooted firmly in positive psychology, Amrita ma’am invited comments and observations from the audience, which resulted in many insights into the underlying themes of the movie.
Throughout the film, there was a light-hearted yet scathing commentary on the double standards placed on men and women in society; when the wife dies, the man is allowed to move on and even remarry, but widows are forcibly trapped in grief for the rest of their lives. Similar hypocrisy can be seen when a woman may be considered the “honour” of the household, but be stripped of her own personal honour or respect at the same time.
The issue of whether Meera ought to forgive Zeenat’s husband was also debated. Amrita ma’am herself pointed out how Meera’s forgiveness was treated as a grey area in the film, and how it never felt like there was going to be a “typical Hindi picture ending”. We were as uncertain about what Meera was going to choose as Meera was herself, and as ma’am said—and correctly so—it was truly reflective about how difficult the decision to forgive was in real life.
Someone pointed out how Zeenat and Meera’s relationship was a rare depiction of female friendships which weren’t centred around a man—something which we don’t often get to see in movies. Zeenat helped Meera question how many of her restraints were real, and how many were imposed upon her by herself; Meera’s innocence and optimism broke through Zeenat’s cynical shell and helped her see beauty in a cruel world. In their own different ways, through their beautiful friendship, each woman helped start a cycle of personal growth in the other.
Meera’s grief was also discussed, both in the movie and in the interactive session that followed. How much did a person “have” to grieve? Is “moving on” synonymous with “forgetting”? Would Meera allowing herself to find happiness cheapen her husband’s memory? Did she not have the right to overcome her grief, without feeling guilty about it? The thoughts shared on grieving and coping were both perceptive and sobering.
The character of Shreyas Talpade was also discussed enthusiastically; the behroopiya was in love with Zeenat, but he helped her without expecting anything in return, not even her affections. In addition, he was an extremely self-aware character, continuously pointing out the gender biases in society, and empathising with the plights of women. Even the entertaining “comic relief” character had such layers to him!
While the picture itself was somewhat slow, the characters themselves and their situations were beautifully portrayed. It made everyone think more deeply about everything from societal constructs, to coping with grief, to forgiveness and empathy. The discussion that followed only served to highlight how positive psychology is relevant to all these themes, and it was an extremely interesting and insightful.
Reported By -Tarang Kaur
Photo Credits – Akshita Negi