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Jan 22, 2011 05:40 PM 39359 Views





Films are being churned out ever since the dawn of the 20th Century. In these almost 120 years, obviously a zillion ideas, themes and various genres have been attempted by filmmakers across the world. Today we are at a time when the maker has to come up with something very interesting in order to arrest viewer’s attention. ‘Been there, done that’ idea nahi chalega! From this perspective, Kiran Rao’s debut feature Dhobi Ghat works like wonders! Even though shot in 16mm and Mini DV formats (not the ones used in regular feature films), Dhobi Ghat beautifully captures the essence of Mumbai. It made me fall in love with the city, its people, its vibrancy…all over again! A film that definitely deserves a watch, especially by art house cinema lovers!

The story of the movie: Munna (Prateik) is a washerboy (or dhobi) who washes and irons clothes at the famous Dhobi Ghat area of Mumbai. Shai (Monica Dogra) is an investment banker from America who’s on a sabbatical. She’s in the city doing what she likes the most – street photography. Arun (Aamir Khan) is a reclusive painter with a sad past. And Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is a newly wedded lady who has recently shifted to Mumbai from her hometown in Uttar Pradesh. All the 4 people are from different strata and backgrounds but somehow come in contact with each other. How everyone’s life changes post the contact is what the film is all about.

A few points to remember before venturing for Dhobi Ghat. It’s not a commercial fare at all and won’t impress lovers of solely masala films. Also it’s an extremely slow film even though it’s just 95 minutes duration. However, for those who love such kind of small-budget independent cinema, Dhobi Ghat is magic on celluloid! The director flawlessly seizes the emotions and the hidden layers of characters. The characters, their problems and conversations, seem straight out of life and hence identifiable. Dhobi Ghat is thus as true as it can be!

The first sequence itself indicates that Kiran Rao will be adopting an unconventional route of filmmaking. Sure enough, the narrative and execution remains very ‘non-filmy’ till the end. The characters are soon established and all 4 of them are very well sketched and written. My most favourite was undoubtedly Arun the painter! It surprises the way he lived and survived without any human contact! Also the entire Aamir-Kriti track is just awesome. No Hindi film has shown such kind of a relationship between the protagonists, ever! The one sided love story of Prateik-Monica and Aamir-Monica too is lovely but that’s something that has been attempted many times in many films. Still it works well thanks to fine execution. However, people may have reservations with the ‘NRI-girl-getting-so-friendly-with-a-washerman’ part.

That the film is without an interval is a great thing. Intermission, I believe, should come at a decisive point of the narrative. Dhobi Ghat was sans any such scene and also since it was just 95 minutes, the no-interval strategy works well. The climax could had been better especially Prateik’s track. But then who cares! The film gives you such a great time that a little imperfect ending of that too one story is fine!

Dhobi Ghat is embellished with some lovely performances. Prateik surprises you completely. We didn’t even see a fraction of the lad’s talent in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. It’s in Dhobi Ghat that he exhibits what he’s truly capable of. Also, how easily he gets into dhobi’s character and speaks the slum lingo is worth appreciating! Fortunately, we’ll be getting to see more of Smita Patil’s son this year as he also stars in Rohan Sippy’s Dum Maaro Dum, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s My Friend Pinto and Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan!

Monica Dogra had already impressed from the promos itself. What beauty, what eyes, what smile! And what performance is what I would add after watching Dhobi Ghat! She fits in the NRI character well as she’s also the same in real life. Therefore, even her accent is real and not faked. Surely one of the best discoveries of 2011! Kriti Malhotra was effortless and looks every inch the Muslim housewife smitten by the dazzle of Mumbai! Also her voice is soothing! And as said before, her track with Aamir is the best part of the enterprise! Kitu Gidwani and Prateik’s buddy were alright. The old lady playing Aamir’s neighbor was scary but awesome!

This is a songless film with Gustavo Santaolalla’s compositions wonderfully enhancing the impact in certain scenes. Tushar Kanti Ray’s cinematography is raw but works well for a film of this scale. It absorbs you completely and it happened many times that I felt that I was not in theatre but watching the story unfolding in front of my eyes in reality! Nishant Radhakrishnan’s editing was apt. The black and white photographs which form a significant part of the film were actually shot by Jyotika Jain. Hats off, Miss Photographer! Also kudos to Sukanya Ghosh and Ravi Mandlik, the painters who worked on the numerous paintings shown in the film!

Kiran Rao is in top form in her directorial venture. As mentioned at the review’s commencement, the filmmakers nowadays need to do something novel and hatke in order to hold viewer’s interest. That not only means in terms of direction or treatment but also in terms of storyline and script. Kiran succeeds in both the aspects. While the direction is topnotch, it’s the storyline that’s very nice especially Aamir-Kriti’s track! The only glitch was that it would have been great had Kiran showed the lovemaking scene between Aamir and Monica. It would have helped establishing characters well.

As for Aamir Khan the producer and the actor, well, tussi great ho! As an actor, he was as usual amazing and totally into his character. At the same time, he allows other actors to get their share of screen presence and also at places, overpower him! This being done by the biggest superstar of Bollywood is worth applauding! Also, willing to produce a film like Dhobi Ghat that is for niche audience is a risk. Aamir only took the risk but also marketed it well and at the same time keeping the costs of the film within limits. The result-people are thronging to see this film which would have otherwise gone unnoticed without Aamir. It’ll also reap profits even though a section of audience has given it thumbs down. My only complaint is-the Aamir should not have accepted an adults-only certificate. There were no violent/intimate scenes and abuses were hardly used at a couple of places. Surely it deserved U/A, if not U certificate!

Some of the best scenes:

  1. The first scene

  2. Shai storms out of Arun’s place

  3. Munna asks Shai to help him with his portfolio

  4. Shai clicks Munna’s pics (funny!)

  5. All scenes of Arun-Yasmin track

  6. Shai goes with Arun at his new house for coffee

  7. Munna’s outburst at the demise of his friend

  8. Munna runs after Shai spots him

  9. Munna runs behind Shai’s car (outstanding scene!)

On the whole, Dhobi Ghat is a film that is well written, beautifully shot and wonderfully performed! If intelligentsia and hatke films impress you, Dhobi Ghat is certainly your cup of tea. Thank You Aamir and Kiran for giving us such a marvelous piece of cinema…a cinema worth remembering for many more years to come!

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