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Dhobi Ghat ( Mumbai Diaries)

'Dhobi Ghat’ is a strangely uneven film. Its beginning feels amateurishly put together.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
January 21, 2011 4:13:10 pm

Director:Kiran Rao

Cast: Aamir Khan,Prateik Babbar,Monica Dogra,Kriti Malhotra


Movie review: Dhobi Ghat‘Dhobi Ghat’ is a strangely uneven film. Its beginning feels amateurishly put together ; as it heads onwards,though,it finds an easy,flowing rhythm with just the occasional stutter.

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Its tagline is ‘Mumbai Diaries’,and debutant director Kiran Rao takes four wildly differing lives in a metro to share with us her beloved city,in all its varying moods. Mumbai,like all throbbing,constantly-on-the-move,major world cities,can madden and enchant at the same time : ‘Dhobi Ghat’s characters intersect with each other,rubbing off some of their skins on the other,giving and taking,pulling and pushing. Some of it works,some of it doesn’t.

Arun ( Aamir) is an up and coming painter who also broods well. He is the object of interest of Shai ( Dogra) a swish NRI investment banker cum photographer,on a sabbatical to capture the lives of marginal city workers. Enter Munna ( Babbar),a young,good-looking slum-dweller who holds dual jobs : during the day,grinning widely,he washes clothes at the ‘dhobi ghat’; at night,he grimly kills rats. And there’s Yasmin ( Malhotra) a small-town girl we see only as an image in a video camera,recounting her tale as a new entrant to the city,moving through the arc of a happy bride to a sad,tragic wife.

Arun and Shai meet at an upscale show opening,the kind where invitees float about with thin-stemmed wine glasses. Even though hers is the wealthier,more privileged background,they speak the same language,and they come together as equals. Rank outsider Munna enters their world as a lowly service provider : he’s the guy who collects dirty laundry and brings it back clean. With Arun,he remains in his place ; with the attractive Shai,he becomes a yearning,besotted young man,plagued by all the jealousies and possessiveness of one. Yasmin’s narrative becomes a point of fascination,and inspiration,for Arun,but the way it translates into action appears contrived : this is one of the film’s major stutters.

Rao has an eye,clearly,but there isn’t a Mumbai scene in here which takes my breath away. Her drawing of Arun aka Aamir,who claims he had to fight for the part,is ironically the weakest strand. Khan tries underplaying his mega-star persona,and is made to say such sentences as “ Mumbai is my muse,my beloved,my whore”. Or words to that effect. The words sound stilted in Khan’s mouth : he’s also a surly lover,not wanting to be gracious to the smitten Shai the morning after. Both the girls,especially Dogra,fill in their parts better,and both sound just right for their station. Prateik comes off the best of the lot,though he could have been given more to work with : there’s something pleasingly original about him,making him stand out from the crowd,a quality he showed in his debut ‘Jaane Tu.. Ya Jaane Na’.

‘Dhobi Ghat’is arresting in parts. I wanted to be beguiled some more.

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