Dhobi Ghat: A Mumbai Dairy


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By Iymon Ganaie

With every film that the brand name ‘Aamir Khan Productions’ brings on the 72 mm screen, the audience is amused. Much same can be said about Dhobi Ghat. It is poetic with a subtle and enchanting background score. Director Kiran Rao’s debut venture is fresh with some resemblances with the parallel cinema, though it can’t be moved into the category of art films.

Dhobi ghat offers a lot. Casual sex is cool. Acting aspirations and washing clothes go hand in hand. Letters are sent in a video format. Painting is done in a crowded locality, which is unusual for mainstream. The only thing common is Mumbai. In one of the scenes, a young woman promises her brother that she will make him tour the city of Mumbai through the video camera, which her husband has recently brought for her. Dhobi Ghat is a small film that will definitely take you to a journey into the city through the camera.

A still from the movie
A still from the movie Dhobi Ghat.

Although the film portrays four different stories interconnected to one another in a meagre way but it is the city Mumbai, which binds them into an overt plot. Mumbai is the main protagonist and the leading lady of the film. This film is not about the characters but about the city. It is a film utterly obsessed by Mumbai.

The characters in the film are starkly different from one another:background, social status, careers, as well as their association with the city. Arun has a self-absorbed existence while Munna is his opposite. Amir khan as Arun speaks less, smokes, drinks, behaves most of the times absent-minded, has a white streak in his air( may be to show he is old) but with all these features he doesn’t fit into the role. It looks, as there was no one in the industry who would have done Arun better. To be more frank, Aamir doesn’t fit as an artist in the film.

Then, it is Yasmin, Arun’s muse for art. Yasmin, a young middle class woman bored by her ill-fated marriage is new to the city. Kirti Malhotra has done an exceptional job to fit into the boots of Yasmin. The best thing about Yasmin is that she has read the fast life of Mumbai very well, ‘jaise speed ke marks milteyhainyahan.’She speaks chaste Urdu but when it comes to writing, she writes the language in an anti-clockwise direction.

Yasmin has no connection with the other female lead of the film but it is the city, which connects them to each other. Shia is Non-Resident Indian (NRI) who has come to the city for venturing into what she loves most; photography.

But the core of the film is Prateik. Kudos to Rao for bringing a fresh light into the industry.Prateik as Munna is lovable. It is delight to watch him on the screen. It is quite worthy to mention that he is the son of Smita Patel. An actor who raised the standards of acting in the 80’s when actresses were happy to dance around the trees. Munna is quiet, restrained, burdened by the finality of his class and he knows where he stands in his society, his social status. He services Mumbai’s rich. Munna is happy in doing so, in the city; the city which has given him enough food as well as enough thrashing.

The film has a soothing effect on the minds. It will be always remembered as the debut directorial venture of Kiran Rao and the stage it has provided to Prateik. It will be also remembered for bringing out the “muse, whore and the beloved Mumbai” in its cinematographic best.

Iymon Ganaie is staff writer for The Kashmir Walla.

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