Saturday, January 22, 2011

#38: Dhobi Ghat

For the last two months, for the amount of the snooping that I did around Dhobi Ghat, I could've qualified to atleast apply for Mossad. For there's not one news clipping that I might've missed out on during this period about the movie Dhobi Ghat.

After all it came from the house of Aamir Khan Productions and Aamir starred in it(a news which was withheld until recently to keep nosy media persons away during shooting) and we know how seriously he takes his movies. It had an Oscar winning musician, a kick-ass trailer and too much of mystery about itself to keep you curiously interested. In short, it had too many things going right for itself. And so I braved a bloody hectic day to seat myself in front of the big screen on Friday night. To come to the point, inspite of the the weight of expectations the movie carried, one must say the movie came out untarnished and unscathed.

As the trailer explains, the movie is an interwoven tale between 4 characters set in Mumbai. It is within the first 15 minutes itself that the characters end up crossing each other's paths. What begins as a casual first meeting between Shai (Monica Dogra) and Arun(Aamir Khan) becomes a relationship that Shai can't help being attracted to. A similar innocuous conversation between the local dhobi Munna (Prateik Babbar) and Shai turns into a dependable friendship that Munna can't have enough of. And in a slightly weaker story thread, Arun after shifting houses ends up in Yasmin's( Kriti Malhotra) old apartment and starts connecting with her through a bunch of videotapes she had recorded capturing her life.

The actors turn in commendable performances and the certain restraint that's evident in all the characters though slightly exaggerated at times, is not entirely out of place. A special mention must be made for Prateik Babbar who is fabulous as the dreamy-eyed local washerman aspiring to make a break into Bollywood. While Aamir nails the character of the brooding artist to the T, Monica Dogra just about delivers a passable performance. And this difference in the levels of performance displays itself in the lack of chemistry between Arun and Shai.

Now coming to the one aspect that was most impressive in the trailers - the look, style and photography of the movie. Well, it surely is something never seen before in Bollywood but at times I also got the feeling it's heavily borrowed from Kieslowski. Whether it's the tinge of colors or the close-ups or the focus of the lens in some of the frames there's an unmistakeable dash of European cinematography that serves the movie well although sometimes they also ended up looking a bit clumsy. The city of Mumbai which perenially acts as the binding factor between the four characters is captured through some stunning shots - the stand outs being some of the shots of the suburban beaches and the ever-crowded Mohammed Ali Road. Though the D.O.P could've done a lot more with it, there are enough signs that Tushar Kanti Ray is a name we will hear about a lot more in Bollywood from here on.

To sum it up, there are many things that work for Dhobi Ghat. It's inherent freshness, it's disarmingly likeable actors and the soothing look of the movie will draw you in as a viewer. You will relate to the reticence of Arun, revel in the dreams of Munna, get charmed by the bubbly Shai and like the simplicity of Yasmin. The only thing that doesn't work for Dhobi Ghat is how it just holds itself back from providing the one climactic peak that would've propelled itself into greatness.

But for that, well done Kiran Rao !

Rating: 7.5/10


Vigyeta said...

Firstly, liked your review! Secondly, I have been trying for some two hours to get my thoughts together on this movie and am still not sure if I’ve captured it all. But here is what I think (and probably it will provide a counter point to your lack of ‘climactic peak’)
Dhobi Ghat doesn’t really have a story to tell. It’s exactly what it says it is – Diaries. Of 4 disparate characters, beautifully sketched, who weave into relevant others and not necessarily each other, to depict the inherent incompleteness in relationships and how these interactions or lack of them, make the protagonists take their own lives forward. There is no attempt to end their struggle or arrive at a solution to their circumstances. You don’t know where the movie will end, and when it does, you’re almost wondering if another page of the Diary is going to be turned to take it to a logical end. And when it doesn’t, you feel that the movie is incomplete, just like its relationships. And there lies its beauty – unlike Fashion, Chandni Bar, Turning 30, Life in a Metro and other such stories that also depict a part of Bombay, the protagonists don’t reach ‘The End’, and you know their lives continue to change as they go on with their lives. The way the movie ends is not where necessarily you see the characters while running the movie in your head.
Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) is just a part chronicle of a few typical players in a big city like Mumbai and if the makers want, they can surely come up with more sequels than Golmaal, but I think the idea is to say, ‘Life just goes on...’
As an aside, I didn’t feel any emotional connect to the movie and yet loved it completely. 

Anonymous said...

beautiful movie. munna stole my heart. the background score soo touching. ths wud set the mode for budget quality movies in bollywood. Atleast lukd like one!

IssacMJ said...

@Viggy: I think even Kiran Rao or Aamir would've loved this comment of yours as much as I did. You've nailed the gist of the movie better than I have in my review actually ! :-)

When I said a cinematic peak, I didn't mean in terms of the story but how in any great movie there's that one magic moment that elevates your viewin experience. It doesn't mean a movie is worse off if it doesn't have it but I think it makes it a better experience. It's like that last scene in Pursuit of Happyness or even if it's not as intense- its that wow moment, that plays in your head as you leave the hall with the closing credits. I thought Aamir's breaking down scene or Shai's last reaction or Munna's last run all came close but didn't deliver that killer punch.

Having said that I still enjoyed every bit of the movie. :-)

@Anon: Yeah, was nice to see even a house as big as Aamir's production house even cut the frills and keep it a low budget movie.

Lokesh-ious RJ writes said...

I haven't watched the movie yet for the fear of dissapointment. I liked the promo so much, you see. Also I drank every you tube video on the movie, every interview that there was on TV or any other media, the making of the film that my expectations soared really high!
But I must say I don't know whether or not I would enjoy the movie, but I totally enjoyed every syllable of your post and Viggy's comment. Let's put it this way- I find myself opening Grand Cinemas in another tab and booking my tickets! :)

IssacMJ said...

@Lokesh: Thanks buddy. So now spread the good word of the blog around to your friends! And do catch the movie asap!

Vigyeta said...

@ Lokesh: I insist you watch the movie. I think you'll like it. After watching Dhobi Ghat, I'm almost jealous of Kiran Rao!

@Issac: Thanks. And agree with you on that lack of lasting moment. But then cest la vie! ;-)

spiderman! said...


I did not actually like the movie. I did like Munna though and the story of the girl on the video. But as Vigyeta put it, it is a movie which will not stay with me. There are no killing moments in the movie which remain etched in memory (like the last scene in The Lives Of Others)