Friday, January 21, 2011

#38: Dhobi Ghat

For the last two months, for the amount of the snooping that I did around Dhobi Ghat, I could've qualified to atleast apply for Mossad. For there's not one news clipping that I might've missed out on during this period about the movie Dhobi Ghat.

After all it came from the house of Aamir Khan Productions and Aamir starred in it(a news which was withheld until recently to keep nosy media persons away during shooting) and we know how seriously he takes his movies. It had an Oscar winning musician, a kick-ass trailer and too much of mystery about itself to keep you curiously interested. In short, it had too many things going right for itself. And so I braved a bloody hectic day to seat myself in front of the big screen on Friday night. To come to the point, inspite of the the weight of expectations the movie carried, one must say the movie came out untarnished and unscathed.

As the trailer explains, the movie is an interwoven tale between 4 characters set in Mumbai. It is within the first 15 minutes itself that the characters end up crossing each other's paths. What begins as a casual first meeting between Shai (Monica Dogra) and Arun(Aamir Khan) becomes a relationship that Shai can't help being attracted to. A similar innocuous conversation between the local dhobi Munna (Prateik Babbar) and Shai turns into a dependable friendship that Munna can't have enough of. And in a slightly weaker story thread, Arun after shifting houses ends up in Yasmin's( Kriti Malhotra) old apartment and starts connecting with her through a bunch of videotapes she had recorded capturing her life.

The actors turn in commendable performances and the certain restraint that's evident in all the characters though slightly exaggerated at times, is not entirely out of place. A special mention must be made for Prateik Babbar who is fabulous as the dreamy-eyed local washerman aspiring to make a break into Bollywood. While Aamir nails the character of the brooding artist to the T, Monica Dogra just about delivers a passable performance. And this difference in the levels of performance displays itself in the lack of chemistry between Arun and Shai.

Now coming to the one aspect that was most impressive in the trailers - the look, style and photography of the movie. Well, it surely is something never seen before in Bollywood but at times I also got the feeling it's heavily borrowed from Kieslowski. Whether it's the tinge of colors or the close-ups or the focus of the lens in some of the frames there's an unmistakeable dash of European cinematography that serves the movie well although sometimes they also ended up looking a bit clumsy. The city of Mumbai which perenially acts as the binding factor between the four characters is captured through some stunning shots - the stand outs being some of the shots of the suburban beaches and the ever-crowded Mohammed Ali Road. Though the D.O.P could've done a lot more with it, there are enough signs that Tushar Kanti Ray is a name we will hear about a lot more in Bollywood from here on.

To sum it up, there are many things that work for Dhobi Ghat. It's inherent freshness, it's disarmingly likeable actors and the soothing look of the movie will draw you in as a viewer. You will relate to the reticence of Arun, revel in the dreams of Munna, get charmed by the bubbly Shai and like the simplicity of Yasmin. The only thing that doesn't work for Dhobi Ghat is how it just holds itself back from providing the one climactic peak that would've propelled itself into greatness.

But for that, well done Kiran Rao !

Rating: 7.5/10