Dhobi Ghat // A fresh breath of musty air

Dhobi Ghat is not a tale, it is a moment. Rather it is a collection of several bittersweet moments in the lives of four people.

I love the films that are not about something, because they usually end up being about people and their feelings, which I find extremely romantic. Dhobi Ghat to me is a romance, a romance with life – the little joys and heartbreaking pains it brings along. It is fantastic, the way Kiran Rao conveys the essence of the city without any help of a great social tragedy or spectrum one feels passionately about. The film is not set in the cruel underworld, the mystical film industry, or a pitiable chawl. It is just set in Bombay.

And beautifully so.

Arun (Aamir Khan) is a bourgeois bohemian who wears Marc Jacobs but lives in a rickety old building in the old city, which one could consider full of character. As a self-confessed loner who considers himself incapable/uninterested in relationships, he forms a deep bond with Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a lonely housewife and the former tenant of the said rickety house. He discovers her through old video tapes she shot of herself as letters to her brother who lives in a small town in U.P. His relationship inspires his art, and we see a painfully sweet connection developing. The director makes the progression of this connection so seamless that when Arun dons Yasmin’s old silver chain-and-ring around his neck, it only seems natural to the audience.

Yasmin is a beautiful girl, full of optimism and hope. She loves her new life, she loves Mumbai and its grandness. At the same time, she is a little child, a lonely one at that. We fall in love with her in the first three minutes of seeing her. But she changes.

There is also Shai (Monica Dogra), the perfect-est NRI I have seen in Bollywood. Her American-English is as natural as her accented Hindi. For once we see an NRI who knows proper Hindi, and thank God (and Kavita Rao) for this! The awkwardness of Shai comes out by her noncompliance to the social norms of Indian society. That is how we know that she is new to Mumbai. While she flutters around in her social circle with great ease, we see her gawkily fitting into the company of Munna (Prateek), a dhobi and an aspirant actor. She is soon at ease in dhobi ghat shooting pictures of Munna at work, and in an under-construction structure, from where she spies un-embarrassedly on Arun despite the surprised stares from the workers.

And of course, there is Munna and his little joyful moments. His shy smile and frank outlook to life squishes your heart and breaks it into a million pieces. But he knows, he has always known what is in his reach, and what isn’t. His dreams are big, yet practical but they do not stop him from seizing his moment. Yet he knows when to back up. Through him I saw the Mumbai I have only read about in books. He is my favorite in the movie, closely followed by Yasmin.

There were a few moments that I did not understand but I shall not nitpick. How often do you come across a film or a book in which you love every single character? None of them is perfect, in fact far from it but you love them nonetheless because they are so real. The intangible problems of the rich bring out those faced by the have-nots in stark comparison. To think that a Shai and a Yasmin can walk on the same beach and breathe in the same air, and yet live in worlds so far apart…

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3 Responses to “Dhobi Ghat // A fresh breath of musty air”

  1. Loved the movie. And the review does full justice to it too.

    3 days on and I keep reading what views the “fans” have of the movie and I keep discussing the movie more and more with people who liked it. And am ignoring all those who found it pointless, who just hated a “handheld camera” documentary. 🙂

  2. Hey Anu!!

    You spoke my heart out in this post. I saw this movie twice in 3 days and wanted to write my views and what I felt after watching this movie but somehow, couldn’t write it. When I saw your post, it was so strange because it felt as if I was reading my thoughts and you have woven all those feelings so beautifully.

    Btw, this is Nandita here, Sameer’s (supersam) wife. Have been reading your blog for a very long time and needless to say, I love it!! I absolutely love the way you write and express your feelings, it’s straight from the heart, very honest and inspiring. Keep up the good work and see you around 🙂

    • sunshin3girl Says:

      Hey Nandita, great to see you here. You do not need to introduce yourself via your husband. I recognize your from photos. 😀

      Yup, Dhobi Ghat is one of those films that speak volumes, but mean different things to different people. Two other people I saw this movie with went back and wrote about it on their respective blogs and each had separate things to say.

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