Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)

Over the last few years, Aamir Khan movies have become an automatic must-watch - so great has been his knack in picking the right scripts/directors and his dedication to his art. Dhobi Ghat though, is being sold more as a Prateik Babbar movie - with Aamir Khan and some other new faces in the other roles. My first instinct was that he probably has a minuscule role in it – and that is why he is appearing more as a producer rather than an actor. (There was also the male chauvinist in me who contemplated that maybe wife Kiran Rao coerced him into lending his name to the movie)

So it was without much expectations that I entered the theater to watch Dhobi Ghaat. Not quite sure what to expect from a 95 minute movie without any interval – but the implicit assurance was that if it is indeed terrible, the torture wouldn’t last long.

Yet, 10 min into the movie, I was engrossed in the beautiful cinematic rendering of four lives in this teeming city – from distinctly different social classes, backgrounds and stations in life – whose lives intersect in a short frame of time, changing much, and yet nothing. In those 95 minutes, Kiran Rao has sketched Arun, Munna, Shai & Yasmin in amazing clarity and details - yet all this she does with commendable subtlety. There is a lot that is not spoken in Dhobi Ghat – yet reading between the lines is never too hard.
(the contrast to Ashutosh Gowariker’s terrible characterization in Kheley Hum Jee Jan Se couldn’t have been more stark)

In the course of the movie - Arun the painter, Munna the dhobi, Shai the NRI tourist and Yasmin the young housewife – cross each others lives in ways they don’t quite fathom, precipitating certain events which become lifechanging. And yet, by the time the movie ends, you are not quite sure if anything did change. The slight tinge of melancholy throughout the movie is accentuated by the use of black and white frames in some places. And Kiran Rao shows her skill by making the ending bittersweet – but not without hope

For a debut movie, Dhobi Ghat has managed to strike an amazing balance between the four characters – giving each of them an equal amount of space – and importance – in the movie. However, Prateik Babbar definitely carries away the acting honors, showing what genes are all about. He is a fantastic natural actor, fitting into his role such effortlessly, he is bound to have a few people sit up and take notice. While he will never have the looks and flair of Ranbir Kapoor, he can give any of the young brigade (the Kapoor scion included) a serious run for their money as far as acting is concerned

The other two debutantes, also do a fabulous job – as the rich NRI kid taking a sabbatical in India and a newly-married housewife having just moved to Bombay – both Monica Dogra and Kriti Malhotra are very convincing & apt in their roles. And Aamir Khan delivers his flawless work as usual, his face telling you as much as his spoken dialogues. You just have to see the scene where he gets frightened and freaks out – without speaking a word of dialogue.

When you walk out of the movie, your head is filled with a torrent of thoughts – as you ponder on how each of the characters go on with their lives. Do Arun, Shai & Munna stay in touch ? Does Imran ever get the messages that were meant for him ? Kiran leaves you without definite answers to most questions. Yet in the course of the movie, she leaves you enough hints as to how things might pan out. The script is engrossing, touching and thought-provoking. And Aamir continues his ways of giving us a must-watch with his every outing.

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