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Dhobi Ghat – a review

First words, Dhobi Ghat is a slice-of-life movie that takes us through a phase in the lives of

Arun (Aamir Khan) – A divorcee painter who keeps to himself and prefers to stay away from the hustle bustle.

Shai (Monica Dogra) – An investment banker from the US, who is in Mumbai on a pretext to study traditional Indian businesses that are losing sheen.

Munna (Prateik Babbar) – A bihari turned Mumbai youngster, dhobi, wannabe actor, rat killer and what not.

Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) – A wife who films her new Mumbai life, to send it to her brother studying in Dubai.

After Lagaan , Taare Zamin Par, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Peepli Live… .its Dhobi Ghat from Aamir Khan productions. I mentioned the movies not just for the sequence but also for the gradual shift from the melodramatic Indian movies to the serious slice-of-life art movies. As I see the transition, I also notice the amount of maturity Indian filmmakers are evolving toward.

I’d like to talk in terms of five broad areas to describe my experience of Dhobi Ghat.

1. The story.

2. The unconventionality of its making.

3. The background score and the Art in the movie.

4. The actors and their characters.

5. The Hyderabad movie theater where I watched the movie!

Here we begin…

1. The Story.

It isn’t unusual for us to see in movies or in real life that people who are complete strangers happen to meet and their lives don’t remain the same in a matter of a few days. Arun is a new age painter, Shai happens to meet him at his art exhibition and they go home to each other after drinks! Well that might sound normal in corners of Mumbai. Shai later happens to meet Munna the dhobi and becomes friends with him, tries her hand at photographing a portfolio for him. While she goes around the city of Mumbai, eats out, interviews small-time  businessmen, takes loads of pictures, all the while with Munna around, munna falls in love with her, or so does it seem.

Meanwhile, Arun finds video tapes in a house he happens to move into and gets curious to watch them. So we meet Yasmin, who not only shows us through Mumbai and its charm, but also introduces to her personal life that goes through the excitement of coming to Mumbai and to the depression of knowing that her husband is cheating on her.

As Arun sees the tapes, he is inspired by Yasmin’s story and her innocence, he starts painting his masterpiece.

Though the movie ends in an unconventional 90minutes, the stories of these four sweet individuals seem to progress well ahead into the future.

An absolutely well written story, passionately crafted screenplay to complement.

2. The unconventionality of its making.

The movie draws itself out of the conventional and the so called Bollywood cinema, by being song-less, comedy-less, drama-less. Many might call this as an art cinema, which by all means is a no no to many audiences in India. But I’d say, this is the kind of cinema that goes a long way into the art of movie making. Kiran Rao has proved that she can actually direct movies after she has tried her had at being an Assistant Director and Producer. The video that Yasmin shoots on her handy-cam forms much an integral part of the movie. Though not unusual in movies, the video feels naturalistic.

To sum it up, the story is a sweet melancholy.

3. The background score and the Art in the movie.

Dhobi Ghat is perhaps one of the very few Indian movies that did not release its music score as a CD! While the story doesn’t stop for a song anywhere, but one would not realize if there were any songs at all, even in the background. The music felt so much woven into the story that you don’t hear it separately! It was more astonishing to see no Indian names in this category. Gustavo Santaolalla, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Aamir Khan himself render a jazz + soul music style background score.

By art in this movie, I mean majorly photography. Probably because I’m starting to find my passion in that area, I was absolutely awe struck at the photographs that Shai makes through the movie. While most of them are in monochrome, they bring out Mumbai and its nuances really well. Still Photographs by Jyotika Jain. I’m all inspired!

4. The actors and their characters.

Aamir Khan as Arun does simply well. In fact I somehow felt Arun represented the serious and keeping-to-myself nature of Aamir Khan himself. I like him no matter what role he portrays. So no more on that.

Picture courtesy - Aamir, Kirti, Kiran, Monika, Prateik

Monica Dogra as Shai. Well boy o boy, she was enticing. She gave me a feeling – ‘where do all such people stay?’ Monica did fairly well with her American English accent and her Hindi diction clearly showed Shai was not used to talking Hindi too much. That apart, Monica looked carefree yet sensitive. What was striking was the moment when Munna gives her Arun’s new address and there are tears in her eyes. That did not really feel like she was acting.

Prateik Babbar as  Munna. We’ve seen him before as an eccentric but serious and sensitive looking guy in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. He blends in perfectly well as a mumbaiyya living in the slums and running away from embarrassments of being close to a beautiful girl. Falling in love and yet being far less stupid. He managed being all this perfectly well.

Kriti Malhotra as Yasmin. hmm! She looked innocent, absolutely naturally beautiful. She lives Yasmin with ease. Perhaps this was the most difficult character to play, talking to a handy-cam all the time and talking about Mumbai and being that sweet and innocent. Doesn’t come easy, or does it for Kirti?

5. The Hyderabad movie theater where I watched the movie!

Well, for one to like the experience of watching a movie, the setup has to suit the taste. We most often don’t have a choice but to go to the multiplexes. I happened to go to Sensation Cinemas in Lakdikapul, Hyderabad. What’s so special here?

  • I never saw a movie hall with all the seats as sofas in our living rooms. Not just that, so much leg room that you’d have to stretch your leg all the way even to touch the seats in front of you.
  • Some UFO sound system that makes you feel you’re one of them on screen. I could hear the rain from the movie so clearly around me that for a moment I felt it was actually raining. When vehicles passed by Shai and Munna as they were running around in Mumbai, it certainly felt I was on that very road in that traffic. Terrific isn’t that?
  • Whats more than impressive is that all that came for a mere Rs.50 a seat. Wow, this is technically thrice as less compared to the multiplexes. At the same time, the seats and the sound make it ten times better than the multiplexes. I love Hyderabad!

All in all, what a way to end the 63rd republic day. I’m awed and inspired by Dhobi Ghat.

Please share your views in the comments section.

17 Responses to “Dhobi Ghat – a review”

  1. Chandra says:

    I still do not understand why you are writing code. If only you spend more time writing your blog than writing code, I am sure you will become famous someday!!

    Very well written!!!

    • bharath reddy says:

      Thanks ra. I feel that some times myself :-P. But I’ll take my time I guess. I’ll need pals like you to say this once in a wile to reorient me. Thanks again.

  2. Renu says:

    Really….Well written…:)

    Hope to see more…

  3. Naga Santosh says:

    Bharath – the blog is so clear such that i’m able to visualize the overall essence of the movie… the story is a sweet somber, i’m enjoying ur blogs….

    Expecting more and more gud moviez from Aamir Khan productions and blogs from u too!!

    Gud going bharath.

  4. Naresh says:

    Ok, fine, nice article … but I want a number …
    Just gimme a rating for the movie … something which fits with your review ..

  5. Vilas says:

    B-rat—-awesome description…made me visulize the movie…great going man 🙂
    Keep writing these and publish em up, gives me some peace atleast…..


  6. vandana says:

    Hey Bharath, interesting review………….
    felt like i was reading a review column in the paper 🙂

  7. Gaurav Choudhari says:

    Hey bharat,

    I liked the way you divided the whole review in 5 parts, and each part is so imp and so different from each other. Nice and smooth flow.

    Also,the small nuances pointed out are really grt!!

    Why dont u go for a diploma for mass media or journalism (may be part time). Think abt it dude seriously !! 🙂

    • bharath reddy says:

      Thank you Gaurav. Mass media or journalism is a nice idea, I’ll check out if Hyderabad has anything to offer.

  8. Karteek says:

    Good write buddy!,
    I was also planning to write a review about it,didn’t know what to write! i will copy yours!

    I am really impressed about the movie,acting sound and also the hall! and the way you written

  9. […] friend has written a nice review of the movie, you can read it at following link If you already watched the movie or know the story it will be little fun to read below I have given […]

  10. nEHA says:

    Hey Bharat! its been long since I visited your website! n today is going to be a busy day as thrs so much to read for me here! Cudnt help commenting on dhobi ghat as i loved the way it was made.. the sincerity in every character was abs honest! i was taken aback by yasmin’s story and the way aamir reacts to it. and whn u tlked bot score.. if u memba there were old hindusthani classical pieces I guess by legend Gagnubai Hangal! i never thot that i wud be reminded of that music era by a modern day hindi movie!

    njoyed readin ur review n although i saw the movie long ago, the review brought it alive to me today again!

    • bharath reddy says:

      Hey Neha, thanks for reading. I was truly inspired by every bit of the movie, the characters, the cast, the music and yea the paintings and photographs! Wish we get to see more such movies in days to come.

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