Director: Kiran Rao
Banner: Aamir Khan Productions
Writer: Kiran Rao
Cinematography: Tushar Kanti Ray
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Cast: Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogra, Kriti Malhotra, Kitu Gidwani, Danish Hussein, Nafisa Khan
The movie opens with the message “There will be no break in the movie” but that’s not quite correct. As the movie successfully breaks the patience of the audience. After 95 minutes of watching something which looks remotely like a documentary, the audience is left utterly confused. What was the story about? What was the story teller trying to tell? And most of all what was Aamir Khan doing in a movie like this?
The movie is about four main characters and how their lives get inter wined with one another. Arun (Aamir Khan) is a reclusive painter who has problems socializing with people. When he shifts into a new house, he finds three “chitthis” or letters (actually video tapes) left behind by the previous occupant, Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra). He starts watching these videos and that’s how a relationship is established between the two of them. The end of her story leaves him shocked and makes him change his house again. Then we have Shia (Monica Dogra) who works in a bank back in the Big Apple. She is on a “sabbatical” and comes to Mumbai to study the traditional Indian professionals like the washer men, vegetable vendors, perfume sellers etc. She meets Munna (Prateik Babbar), a washerman-cum-night rat killer, who helps her with the task in hand. There is a love angle too in the movie. Shia is attracted to Arun who does not respond. Munna is in love with Shia who does not respond. Are you still with me? Good because there is more to come!
Needless to say the performance by Aamir Khan is amazing. There are absolutely no traces of 20-something “Rancho” from 3 Idiots. We have a mature 40-something painter who looks intense and deep. Very much like his real image. Monica Dongra as an English-speaking NRI does a decent job. Prateik Babbar has proved that he, indeed, has acting in his blood. His mom must be smiling at him from above. Kriti Malhotra hardly leaves any impression on the mind. But the performance by the junior artists takes the cake. Latabai (Yasmin’s maid) and her daughter Vinita are very convincing. Salim as a typical Mumbai guy does justice to the role.
One cannot put “Dhobi Ghat” in the art movie category. And neither does it come under the commercial one. It lies somewhere in between the documentary and parallel cinema. The problem with the theme of the movie is that so much has already been said about the vast economic gap, the lack of basic amenities for the common man and of course, the ugly yet compelling place called “Mumbai”. As Arun beautifully puts it in one line “Mumbai my muse, my whore and my beloved city”. The city inspires you like a muse, doesn’t belong to anyone or belongs to everyone like a whore and embraces you like a beloved. Very profound!
What catches the viewers’ attention is the remarkable cinematography by Tushar Kanti Ray. You will witness some of the most artistically done shots of Mumbai and her people. Some respite from the dragging story.
To say that the viewers might not like the movie because of their lack of understanding of the parallel cinema will be unfair. The Indians are ready for the New Age cinema. They have appreciated movies like “Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye” “Taare Zameen Par” “Tere Bin Laden” “Dev D”, to name a few, in the past. All these movies were not the usual “masala” ones. But you cannot fool “janta janardhan” with a boring flick in the name of “contemporary” movie. They are too intelligent for that.
My verdict is Aamir Khan should not have been in this movie, even if it was for his wife sake. Every movie he has been in over the last 5 years has been a success. This just took that excitement away from Aamir Khans movies.
Ms. Kiran Rao, your debut directorial venture seems to be a complete “wash out”. Time to take some direction tips from your better half.