The ApunKaChoice movie review of Dhobi Ghat.Dhobi Ghat is a film that will get diverse reactions from the viewers. Some will no doubt snore through it, some will keep shifting in their seats impatiently, and there are still others who’ll be glued to the screen, unable to blink, totally sunk into the layered drama, the melancholy unravelling against the gentle, unnerving thrum of the most unique city in the world.
“Meri hamsafar, meri tawaif, meri jaan.” That’s how Arun (Aamir Khan) describes Mumbai. A reclusive painter with a mercurial temperament, he shifts into a run-down house in Old Mumbai to seek inspiration that he unexpectedly finds in the abandoned video diaries of a newly-wed Muslim woman Yasmeen (Kriti Malhotra), the Mumbai diaries recorded as letters to her brother back home in UP but never sent for reasons that remain obscure until the very end.
Shai (Monica Dogra) is a banker from the US, holidaying in Mumbai with her Canon digital still camera with which she hopes to record the daily lives of the aam aadmi - the dhobis, the hawkers, the perfume sellers, the night-watchmen. Munna (Prateik Babbar) is a dhobi with a dream to become an actor and a heart that throbs for Shai.
Among these four distinct characters, writer-director Kiran Rao weaves - warp and weft - a tale of intersecting lives, a tale of unrequited love, of one-night stand and the regret on the morning after, of hopes dashed and inspiration found, of loss and, ultimately, death. Dhobi Ghat is a film that calls for a different sensitivity from the viewer. It’s not just content being another clichéd collage of vignettes of the city’s streets and squalor, though there are many, thanks to the black-and-white snaps by Jyotika Jain. Nah! It leaps beyond that and takes a plunge into the lives of the characters, depicting their anxieties, desires and loss with nearly brutal realism but an empathetic heart.
It’s surely not a film for the suckers of speed - the folks who trip on imaginative shot compositions, slick editing, brisk pace punctuated with quip-heavy dialogues and more such screenplay-savvy gimmickry. Kiran Rao puts the story above all. Simply and quite craftily she unravels it with no sense of urgency or desire to overwhelm the viewer. She takes her sweet time to let the story take roots on the screen, the tempo of the screenplay being just right for a film of this genre. It ambles on for a good hour and then slowly, creepily, explodes in its dying minutes into a denouement that’s sure to give you a lump in the throat.