4.5 Excellent

Dhobi Ghat

As a fanatic fan of Bollywood since the 1980’s, I confidently say that it has grown; economically, commercially and conceptually. We get to see commercial projects which are better than ever before; we even come across movies based on experimental topics. But what I have been missing is a genre that has witnessed a huge gap; the genre which included masterpieces such as “Ijazat”, “Arth” and plenty of other ART movies. Just when one starts suspecting the death of this genre, in comes a breath of fresh air in the form of “Dhobi Ghat”. Most would term this latest movie by Amir Khan’s Production House as an experiment, but for me, this is in fact a case of Bollywood “RE-DISCOVERING” one of its lost and most precious treasures.
I want to write pages of praise for Amir Khan and his pursuit towards excellence in film making, but going into that will actually be a little unfair to the film itself. The makers of the film have extended a brilliant approach to the narrative. At the surface, it does seem like an unorthodox tale, but beneath the crudeness of this surface, lays a silky ocean of tender and common emotions. Let’s scratch this surface and search the treasure…
• The screenplay presents some amazing analogies. The sea is beautifully presented to express the commotion beneath its apparent calmness. The hustle bustle of the city beautifully depicts the fast pace of today’s era; but glimpses of common life reflect the simplicity glowing within the hearts of the characters.
• The direction is superb and there is a stamp of originality all over the 1 and a half hour of the film. From dialogues to expressions; from background music to camera angles and from performances to editing, each and everything is pure. Kiran Rao has held herself up and has proudly risen above the shadow of her husband’s reputation.
• The characters are adorably crafted and realistically presented.
o Shai, being an NRI, has no issues with Arun trashing her after a one night’s stand.
o Arun, being a loner, stabs his cigarettes in his coffee mug and sleeps on the couch while watching TV.
o Yasmeen, being a simple village girl, complies with her family’s wishes and surrenders to her husband’s betrayal without a protest.
o And finally Munna, being a poor guy infatuated with showbiz, realizes the social differences between him and Shai.
This realism of characters has literally blown me away.
• Technically, the film is a masterpiece. I have no doubt that the cinematographer of this movie will be grabbing a lot of awards next year. Background music is extra special and editing is really crisp.
• The director and editors rightfully assess that extending the movie to more than 90 or 95 minutes would ruin the impact. They deserve applause for refraining from any commercial temptation and sticking to the plan.
The film is loaded with some nice performances.
• I am a huge Amir Khan fan, yet I have to place Prateik Babbar above the ace actor in terms of his performance. Prateik is absolutely mesmerizing with his restrained portrayal of Munna. His expressions during the photo-shoot and his last scene at the window of Shai’s car are more than enough to prove that this boy is bound to live up to his mother’s reputation.
• Amir, on the other hand, defies all the basics of stardom. He did it in “Rang Dey Basanti” and “Taarey Zameen Pay” and now he does it again. He hides himself behind junior actors and still manages to shine. His lips don’t move much, but his eyes keep on speaking and his mannerism keeps on radiating a comfort for the viewer.
• The two debutant girls have acted brilliantly. Both Monica Dogra (Shai) and Kriti Malhotra (Yasmeen) sink into their respective characters and contribute significantly in making the film believable.
In terms of content, I cannot find any negative in the movie, but it will be a huge bonus for me if the film works at the theatrical level. I doubt if most of today’s audience would want to sit again through the slow pace of the movie, thus chances of repeat audience are almost zero.
I normally feel bad if the movies I like don’t work at the box office, but in case of Dhobi Ghat, the pleasure of watching this film was immense enough to let any bad feeling creep in. It was an honor to be in the same hall with Shai, Arun, Yasmeen and above all Munna; four characters that I would love to meet again.