Dor: Nagesh Kukunoor perfects the art of story-telling

Dor opens with Gul Panag playing Zeenat, a character defined by a strong sense of honesty, determination, and self-will. The focus is on Zeenat’s serene profile. If your looking for any sign of make-up – you won’t find it. Meera, the other protagonist is played by Ayesha Takia.

Dor is a story of the two women, Zeenat and Meera. Their lives are inextricably linked by a certain sequence of events. At no point are the events incredulous or unbelievable. Also, the events themselves will not dominate your thoughts, rather it is the lives of the two women after these events that will leave a strong mark in your mind. At the risk of oversimplification, you will experience what the majority of women are up against thanks to Indian society and traditions. You will learn that there is at least one solution.

The talented Shreyas Talpade plays the role of Behroopiya. His entrance into the movie is almost an assurance that Zeenat and Meera will find a way to untangle the events. Shreyas’ brand of comic relief is not annoying or repetitive.

Last night, I watched the movie in a packed Multiplex-screen in Pune. Surprised? Even more so when you will learn the show was a late-late show (11pm). The movie had just one dance number (and that too, the number is set with Kajra Re from Bunty aur Bubli). Dor is shot only with the beautiful Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan’s arid backdrop. I am so sure that India (urban and maybe even rural) will accept different cinema.

I admire Nagesh’s work. He has perfected the art of presenting a story to bind the movie-goer. The most memorable scenes have shades of surprise, uncertainty, despair, and hope all painted into brilliant depictions that are alive. I highly recommend Dor if you enjoy watching a rich story unravel. In Nagesh’s own words “The story wrote itself”.

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The red pill…

We have been discussing the Matrix (1999) all of this week in the real world. I thought I would quickly flash back to what I thought was the most significant scene in the movie. I will let it speak for itself,

(Lafayette Hotel)
: This is it. Let me give you one piece of advice. Be honest. He knows more than you can imagine. (Neo walks into the door, Morpheus turns around to face him).

Morpheus: At last. Welcome, Neo. As you no doubt have guessed, I am Morpheus.
Neo: It’s an honor to meet you.
Morpheus: No, the honor is mine. Please, come. Sit down. I imagine that right now you’re feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole? Hm?
Neo: (seated on a red leather armchair) You could say that.
Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Neo: No.
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Neo: The Matrix?
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is? The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind…. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…. (Neo begins to reach out for the red pill, Morpheus closes his palms) Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more…. Follow me…. Apoc, are we online?
Apoc: Almost.
Morpheus: Time is always against us. Please, take a seat there.

This scene reminds one of their own refusal to accept what is their immediate reality. Neo tries hard to disassociate himself from his own reality (he is a software programmer, pays taxes and such). At which point, the stars deign that Morpheus will walk into one’s life and offer a choice. The choice is of course pre-written. Neo wants to see where the rabbit-hole will lead.

Fast-forward to the Nebuchadnezzar. Neo has been freed from the Matrix. Morpheus admits to Neo that they don’t free minds after a certain age, that they broke the rules when freeing Neo. The mind usually has trouble letting go. Morpheus then attempts to get Neo to believe that he can beat the rules of the system. Unfortunately, Neo fails to make his first conceptual jump.

The Matrix introduced an incredible set of concepts, philosophies, revolution, path-breaking special effects, and so many other things. I treasure it most because it asked me to believe that it is indeed possible to shape reality. Not in the literal sense of bending a spoon, sure – but why not?

Neo is still really not ready when he walks in to the Oracle’s home. There he meets the other potentials.

Spoon boy (also known as one of the other potentials): Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

Later, the Oracle tells him what he needs to know, that he is not the one. Indeed, he has the gift, but he is waiting – perhaps for another life (self-fulfilling :-), don’t you think)? Who knows?

Oracle: I’d ask you to sit down, but your not going to anyway. And don’t worry about the vase.
Neo: What vase?
Oracle: That vase. (Neo looks back, half-turning and tips over a vase in the corner)
Neo: I’m sorry.
Oracle: I said don’t worry about it. I’ll get one of my students to fix it.
Neo: How did you know?
Oracle: What’s really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything.

It is also on this same day that he realizes that he must make another choice. He makes his choice, at which point it appears to the observer – he has broken down every conceptual block and has begun to believe.

Tank: Morpheus, you’re more than a leader to us. You’re our father. We’ll miss you always.
Neo: Stop. I don’t believe this is happening.
Tank: Neo, this has to be done.
Neo: Does it? I don’t know, I… this can’t be just coincidence. It can’t be.
Tank: What are you talking about?
Neo: The Oracle. She told me this would happen. She told me that I would have to make a choice.
Trinity: What choice?… What are you doing?
Neo: I’m going in.
Trinity: No you’re not.
Neo: I have to.
Trinity: Neo, Morpheus sacrificed himself so that he could get you out. There’s no way that you’re going back in.
Neo: Morpheus did what he did because he believed I am something I’m not.
Trinity: What?
Neo: I’m not the one, Trinity. The Oracle hit me with that too.
Trinity: No. You have to be.
Neo: Sorry, I’m not. I’m just another guy.
Trinity: No, Neo. That’s not true. It can’t be true.
Neo: Why?
Tank: Neo, this is loco. They’ve got Morpheus in a military controlled building. Even if you somehow got inside, those are agents holding him. Three of them. I want Morpheus back too, but what you’re talking about is suicide.
Neo: I know that’s what it looks like, but it’s not. I can’t explain to you why it’s not. Morpheus believed something and he was ready to give his life for what he believed. I understand that now. But that’s why I have to go.
Tank: Why?
Neo: Because I believe in something.
Trinity: What?
Neo: I believe I can bring him back…. What are you doing?
Trinity: I going with you.
Neo: No you’re not.
Trinity: No? Let me tell you what I believe. I believe Morpheus means more to me than he does to you. I believe if you were really serious about saving him you are going to need my help. And since I am the ranking officer on this ship, if you don’t like, I believe you can go to hell. Because you aren’t going anywhere else. Tank, load us up.

Trinity: Neo, no one has ever done anything like this.
Neo: That’s why it’s going to work.

The rest of course as they say, is Hollywood ;-). The truth is, Neo fought the battle, rescued Morpheus and gave his life. As his neuro-kinetic reading went flat he was then reborn (did anyone notice the digit “2” on the screen?).

Thanks for stopping by. Believe in your self, now go watch the movie :-).


Yeh hai US meri Jaan

ey Dil, hai mushkil, jeena yahan,
jara hatke, jara bachke,
ye hai US, mera jaan…

kahin building, kahin dramey, kahin motor, kahin mill,
milta yahan sab kooch,
sirf milta nahi ek dil
kahin building, kahin dramey, kahin motor, kahin mill,
milta yahan sab kooch,
sirf milta nahi ek dil
insan ka nahin kahin namo-nishaan

ey Dil, hai mushkil, jeena yahan,
jara hatke, jara bachke,
ye hai US, meri jaan…

The answer to the Ultimate Question

The Question is, the Ultimate Question about the Life the Universe and Everything. It’s the question that was asked to the mega-computer that is actually the Earth in Douglas Adam’s the “HitchHikers Guide to The Galaxy” where the Earth is basically part of a large experiment run by mice. Humanity happens to be part of the large experiment, but only believe that they may experiment on mice since they are more intelligent. It’s actually the other way around.

To Quote the Wikipedia:
The answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, as given by the supercomputer Deep Thought to a group of mice in Douglas Adams’s comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is “42”. According to the Guide, mice are 3-dimensional profiles of a pan-dimensional, super-intelligent race of beings. They built Deep Thought, the second greatest computer of all time and space, to tell them the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. After seven and a half million years the computer divulges the answer: 42.

“Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

The computer informs the researchers that it will build them a second and greater computer, incorporating living beings as part of its computational matrix, to tell them what the question is. That computer was called Earth and was so big that it was often mistaken for a planet. The question was lost minutes before it was to be outputted, by the Vogons’ demolition of the Earth, supposedly to build a hyperspace bypass. (Later in the series, it is revealed that the Vogons had been hired to destroy the Earth by a consortium of philosophers and psychiatrists who feared for their jobs should the meaning of life become common knowledge.)

Anyhow, coming back to the question, the answer to the question is “42”. However, there are certain basic traps here. The “Ultimate Question” is extremely vague and omnipotent. For example, the philosopher might ask, “what is the meaning of life?” or I might ask “is there a pattern behind the universe?”, or as Franky and Benji mouse (from the book) might ask “what is the fargin question that deserves 42 as an answer?”.

Franky and Benjy mouse are the only survivors after Earth blows up and were conducting the “Experiment” (to determine the Ultimate question AFTER they found out that the answer to that question was “42”).

Arthur Dent happens to be the only survivor of humanity and part of that experiment. So the mice propose to dice his brain to extract the answer. However, Arthur manages to escape Unscathed. To quote Wikipedia:

Already booked for a round of talk-show appearances to reveal the Question, the mice become desperate to discover it. During a meeting with Arthur Dent and his companions on the planet Magrathea, Frankie and Benjy mouse reveal a plan to extract the ultimate question from Arthur’s brain. Since this involves removing and dicing his brain, Arthur is unwilling to go along with the plan. He manages to escape from them unscathed.

Lacking a real answer, the mice proposed to use “How many roads must a man walk down?” as the question for talk-shows (having rejected the question, “What’s yellow and dangerous?” – actually a riddle whose answer, not given by Adams, is “Shark-infested custard”).

At the end of the book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (volume 2 of the Hitchhiker’s trilogy), Arthur Dent (as the last human to have left the Earth before its destruction, and therefore the portion of the computer matrix most likely to hold the question) attempts to discover the Question by extracting it from his unconscious mind, through pulling Scrabble letters at random out of a sack. The result is the sentence “WHAT DO YOU GET IF YOU MULTIPLY SIX BY NINE”.

“Six by nine. Forty-two.”
“That’s it. That’s all there is.”

Since 6 x 9 = 54, this being the question would imply that the universe is bizarre and irrational; on the other hand, there is no proof that this was the actual question. After all, Arthur Dent comprised only a minuscule fragment of the vast and complex computer matrix that was the Earth, and besides, it was stated that the computer’s run had not finished when it was destroyed. In addition, Arthur and Ford realized that the original ape-like inhabitants of Earth were displaced by the Golgafrinchans, which could account for the irrational nature of the question in Arthur’s mind (as he himself is a descendant of the Golgafrinchans).

However, it was later pointed out that 6 x 9 = 42 if the calculations are performed in base 13, not base 10. Douglas Adams was not aware of this at the time, and has denied that base 13 has anything to do with it.

Now let’s look at the answer, lot’s of people have construed the answer to fit many explanations, one explanation has already been offered above (base 13, 🙂 13 diners at the last supper, Google, Deep Thought, blah blah). Douglas Adams has denied it ALL. He say’s it WAS A JOKE goddamit. He never intended it to be anything with significant meaning, he just wanted to write his book.

Which brings us back to the question, which can now be (finally) conveniently phrased, Is Life, the Universe and Everything else part of a big JOKE? Yes, you know the rest…