What could have been the vision of Kiran Rao, the director and half-producer of DHOBI GHAT before she set out to make this movie? Let me attempt to speculate on this.
1. My first movie will be an off-beat movie.
2. I will try to make this appealing to a very select audience.
3. To give it a touch of modern cinema, I will try to use hand-held cameras.
4. I will make this as a short movie by Bollywood standards, but of the appropriate length for the audience not to mistake it as a trailor.
5. I will have no song and dance sequences.
6. My movie will not have any story-line, but will be rather a collage of some themes about Mumbai.
7. I will try to give an International flavour to this movie and will therefore incorporate a reasonable amount of English dialogues.
8. I will have as few artificial sets as is possible.
9. Although all of my husband’s recent hit starrers Ghajini, Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots were released in December, I will release this movie in January.
10. I will make this movie as bereft of glamour as is possible.
What is the end result? Let me give my views on this.
1. All the above objectives of Kiran Rao have been totally met.
2. The movie has outstanding portrayals by Prateik Babbar (playing the role of a Dhobi with dreams of life as a small time actor), Monica Dogra (the investment banker on a sabbatical in Mumbai and who is attracted by the smells and the taste of the grime and eccentricities of Mumbai and its residents) and quite a decent performance by Aamir Khan (in the role of a divorced, lonely and reclusive painter). The fourth main character of the helpless plight of the poor girl trapped in marriage with a philandering person played by Kriti Malhotra sounds less convincing than the other characters.
3. The title DHOBI GHAT is extremely inappropriate, since there are perhaps just two or three fleeting shots of the Ghat itself and that setting has hardly any role in the movie itself. Kiran seems to have realized this and has perhaps hence appended Mumbai Diaries to the name of the movie.
4. The characters of the film have all been etched very sharply and credit must go to Kiran for this.
5. There are four independent story tracks which run through the length of the movie: those of Munna, the Dhobi, Arun, the painter, Shai, the NRI investment banker with her foreign accent and the video diaries of Yasmin. The movie’s biggest let-down is that the linkage which the director expects to establish is so tenuous that the linkage appears highly contrived. An example of a movie in recent times which tried out this theme of taking us through seemingly unrelated stories but brilliantly established linkages in the end is BABEL.
6. Instead of looking like a single feature film, this turns out to be four loosely strung well shot documentaries.
7. If there were to be a prize for so starkly depicting real life vignettes of Mumbai, this movie would be a front runner.
8. There are some scenes which are beautifully shot and which remain in one’s mind long after the movie is over. One such scene is the one in the movie hall where Munna is seen gently nudging his hand to make contact with Shai’s hand.
9. The movie is not a tragedy, but manages to leave a loser like feeling all over you, very much like the protagonists of the movie. I do not know if this was Kiran’s objective, but if you are looking for a feel good texture, then this movie is not for you.
10. For me, Mumbai is synonymous with life and living; it has a soul which refuses to get scarred. Unfortunately DHOBI GHAT does not represent that.
RATING: 3 out of 5