MOvie reViEw – Dhobi ghat

Dhobi Ghat:

This is my first full fledged movie review and I don’t think I could have chosen a better movie for it. Dhobi Ghat (2011) is Kiran Roa’s (Amir Khan’s Present wife) first movie as a director. Not only this, it is also a debut movie for the two actresses Monica Dogra (Shai) and Kriti Malhotra (Yasmin). The actor Prateik Babbar (Munna) is too just a movie old and then we have our own perfectionist “Amir Khan” (Arun).

So first thing first, staying here in US doesn’t help when it comes to the latest movies and their general buzz going around back in India. Although I had heard of the name of the Movie (through twitter and facebook updates) I never went deep into it, never bothered googling it. It was 21st of January when I first saw the trailer of the movie on YouTube and believe me I was instantly in love with the background score. Even the presentation of the characters and their links were shown in a great fashion in that three odd minutes of the trailer. Coincidentally it was the same day when the movie was released in India. Soon after this I started getting reviews of the movie from my friends, many through social networking, and baring one or two, rest all were thumbs down. I wanted to see that in theatre but the air was that the movie is a boring one, very slow and with an abrupt ending. I searched for the reviews by the critics and they were just ok ok kind of reviews. Most of the ratings were between 3 and 4 on the scale of five. But I had couple of great reviews through twitter, so that put me in kind of dilemma. To add to the dilemma, I don’t watch the Bollywood movies much since I get more varieties in Hollywood, I don’t want to sound like a cynic but that is true.

But after a week or so I just couldn’t stop myself from watching the movie. Actually it was the trailer that had something in it saying it loud that this movie is different! Also when we have completely diverse reviews it is prudent to go ahead and watch it for ourselves.

So I went ahead and saw the movie and here is what I felt. Soulful and thought full! To express my reaction, I could have used the words like “amazing”, “mind blowing” or ubiquitous “awesome” but it would have been a cliché which the movie it self is not!

First thing first, the movie is not at all slow. For me it got over soon, I was completely into it and never realized when the movie was over. Then come the ending. It couldn’t have been better, given the usual mystery surrounding the movie; it was good that the expected end was not shown in it. For those who said the ending was abrupt must be expecting “happily married” tag behind a car, zooming out of the screen. The ending was totally in sync with the soul of the movie. The next thing I heard people and the review comments ranting was that there is no story in the movie. Please define story! Anyway movies are more to reality than stories. For stories I can always fall back to Spider man, Batman, Superman, Chacha Chaudhary, Naagraj, Super commando “Dhruv”, Mogli, Alice in wonderland etc etc.

Before going to the movie let me say that the actors have done a stupendous job in the movie. Given both the female stars were debutants, it is really a commendable work. Hats off to “Kiran” for selecting the actors who could justify their roles. “Shai” is brilliant in playing a girl coming from US and wanting to get versed with the life of Mumbai and to find out how things work on granular level. Being in US for long time (courtesy twitter) must have helped her, and in turn her role in the movie. Looks promising, some of the scenes are clear top notch. “Yasmin” too had a difficult role to play given she has to speak to herself for most of the time in the movie. The innocence of a girl from a small town, the curiosity of a person being introduced to a city for the first time, the care for ones family, everything has been perfectly covered. Talented she is. “Munna” I have to say is the actor to watch out for. Take it from me; given the opportunity he will surprise us with his acting ability. He carries a carefree attitude, nowhere in the movie does it appears as if he is acting, it comes so naturally for him. Top notch acting, hats off. Last but not the least, “Arun”, we all know him and I appreciate “Kiran” for giving him that kind of role. Not making him big but just the part of the movie has again gone with the soul of the movie. It won’t be wrong for me at least to say that “Arun” was overshadowed by other actors (yes in terms of acting), probably he was under played but then it might have been done purposely coz it made the movie even more powerful.

Let me tell you that the first thing that made me fall for the movie was the “Music” when I first saw the trailer. If the movie had just the music in it, still I would have seen the entire movie or should I say, would have listened. It still lingers when I think of the movie. There is something in it… and I don’t know what! So my third Hat that goes off is for the Music.

Let us now jump to the movie. This is the exact kind of movie that I can pay for watching again and again.  This one goes right there in top 3 Bollywood movies for me. I don’t want to sound saying other Bollywood movies are bad but I like these kind of movies a lot. “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer” is top in my list. These are just that kind of movie that catches the smallest of things in detail. The emotions and expression run so high that you feel it happening for real. It is like reading a book and flipping the pages with your fingers rather than scrolling down a pdf.

There are many instances where you really can’t stop appreciating the movie. The busy life of normal Mumbaikars being captured by “Yasmin” with her camera and then the same kind of life “Arun” watches through his balcony when he comes to stay at that place. It looks so natural, everyone busy doing their work; no one wear even a smile for others not even for self. The sadness veiled behind the bustling city is so apparent here. People here are so occupied that other than their work they don’t see anything else, they just don’t get to see.

The most surprising part in terms of acting and capturing the life and expressions of people is when “Yasmin” takes video of her “Bai”. I just can’t explain how natural that little piece in the movie was. The way the “Bai” speaks, her expression, things she tells, her daughter hesitantly appearing in front of the camera but standing behind her mother, her recital of the poem, the mistakes in it, but then her explanation to her mother on how “Yasmin” will send the video to her brother, her reply of “English” medium, everything was simply amazing.

Other things like the scene where “Arun” drinks rain water from the roof of his chawl and “Munna” had to put a plastic cover on his roof so that the rain water doesn’t seep through. Simple things like “Munna” while he goes for bath in the morning, helps a drunk guy by laying him off the tracks, or say his cousin reading in the same room in which he and his other cousin watches movie. It is not about his reading in the chaos but the way he always bend forward and hunches back is notable, most of the people in “Madrasas” read that way, he being a Muslim brings reality to his character. This happens just for few seconds but then I am speaking of the subtle things in the movies and very often in life that people don’t appreciate much. I can relate to so many people with “Munna” when that scene happens where “Shai” asks him why he doesn’t have a girl friend given he as such a good body and he grins, the smile is worth watching and then “Shai” knows that she is just asking what “Munna” wants her to. Then “Shai’s” facial expression and her eye movement when “Munna” poses for the photo session with his shirt off is again one of the bright moments in the movie, where you see the brilliance in their acting. Then there is “Arun’s” reaction when he finds out that the video that he is watching was taken in the same room, his expression of comparing the current place with the one in video simply top act. Other instances like the one where “Shai” watches “Arun” from the construction site, we see couple of workers behind her, their curiosity is so obvious in their body language. Then there is an old woman who just plays the role of a watcher, who knows about everyone but can not interact with anybody else. There are few other things that are worth noting, even when towards the end when “Munna’s” cousin dies, there is an indirect connection between his death and “Shai’s” presence. Parallel to his death we come to know that even “Yasmin” has committed suicide. It is perhaps the death of his brother that prompts “Munna” to give her the “Arun’s” address even when he likes “Shai” a lot.

Ironically one who should be happy cries and one who should be sad, smiles! Above mentioned things are just few of the things that are on top of my head right now and I am sure there are many. There are!

Having said all that, I have couple of open questions that I didn’t understand even after watching the movie twice.
The first one and an important one is that the movie starts with “Yasmin” capturing the video of Mumbai, does this suggest that she was still alive at that time. Coz that was in the real time, we were not into the cassettes yet. If that is the case, it is confusing that she died and how old are the tapes, coz “Arun” had just moved into that room. Please reply to this if somebody knows the answer to this.

The other questions are like what does “Yasmin” writes on the sand in Urdu? What is the role of that old woman (watcher) in the movie? Does the women who towards the end of the movie warn “Munna” not to dream of the American Girl, is related to him in anyway? Probably she was just one of his old clients. And last one, just coming out of no where, is “Arun’s” wife still alive, apparently in Australia or is it only his son there?

In the end, I would like to say that “Amir Khan” didn’t look comfortable in smoking the way he did!

Happy watching….
If I were to give a rating, mine would be 9/10.


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