Posted by: miilee | January 25, 2011

Thank God for “Dhobi Ghat”!

Ok, for those who haven’t yet seen the movie, shoo off!! Spoiler Alert!! DO NOT READ THE ‘Now The Review’ SECTION OF THIS POST! I’m gonna spoil the whole make for you if you read it before seeing the work. If you want to know whether you should spend on tickets and popcorn or just wait for the DVD, I’d say if you like good story telling with interesting devices, go for it. If you’re looking for item numbers and ‘entertainment’, stay off. This film wasn’t made for general audiences and titillation; only those who enjoy experimental cinema. This is a work of art.

Setting the Scene:

Before I go on to the review, I must share with you some things. My experience of a film is always comparative; with how the trailer and publicity affected my experience along with how other movies I’ve recently watched increased or decreased my joy of this one. I am not a film critic; don’t expect me to give you blow-by-blow account of what camera angle was good and what sound track jarred. I am a young professional who likes to make time to visit the theaters with expectations. What I write here is nothing but what I feel has happened to those expectations.

In this case, the background is a little depressed and dejected me, testing the betraying waters of Bollywood again after being stung twice; once, by the idiocracy of Tees Maar Khan and the second by the mediocrity of No One Killed Jessica. As a viewer with some IQ, in the aftermath of the humiliation I faced at the hands of TMK and the abject disappointment at the hands of NOKJ, Dhobi Ghat came as a fountain of youth to the dying. It has reinstalled my hope in the fact that the industry still has some profound and deep work to offer. Some real results of all round good film making on the screen. Not just a bunch of SMS jokes strung together to make catchy dialogs or half naked stick figures crossing the screens in soft-pornish ‘dance’ steps or cleverly cut trailers eluding me into believing that the film actually has a substantial story and good execution.

About TMK, I don’t blame them. They didn’t show me a trailer of an intelligent make. They said it was a brainless, ‘fun’ make. I just underestimated how brainless it could be.

About “No One Killed Jessica”, I had put it on a pedestal after that brilliant trailer and all that publicity; I wanted to kill myself for having held hopes. The movie disappointed me so much that I am still not over it. It was like a personal jibe.

Now the Review:

Afteh this hurt, when The Dhobi Ghat trailer aired, I viewed with a stung eye. I took the bait and went for it, trusting the ‘a’ of Aamir Kahn Productions. It told me that it has a bunch of stories to tell me. It did just that. Not an ounce more or less. Even the posters are pretty sober colored things indicating a sort of make that could easily blend into the regular background of the lives of people, yet constantly making it’s presence felt…  I am not feeling short changed. After “No One Killed Jessica” it is like finding an understanding hug after a messy, bad break up.

First: I take my hat off to Kiran Rao. Woman, if that was a sample of what you write, and how you direct, I am buying tickets for all your future makes! (I only hope that you don’t let me down.)

The make was so well made, layered and nuanced and so completely filled with the essence of ‘Mumbai’ that I was totally expecting a stench of fish when I saw the fish market and a breeze in my hair when I saw the beach. There are several things that worked for me in the film. I’ll try to do them justice by explaining a little:

1. The Four Stories: Obviously forming the backbone of the movie, the stories of Arun, Shai, Munna and Yasmin were arrestingly interesting yet not unidentifiable. They were beautiful stories of what happens to different people in this city. I loved Arun’s artistic streak coupled with his commitment phobia and obvious emotional baggage. It was beautiful how a loner like him connected with that woman on tape. Shai’s character was openly lovable; what with her friendship and effect on Munna. Munna too was one of the most endearing male characters I’ve seen on screen. Obviously an underdog, one’s heart goes out to him. The effect Shai has on him elicited a fair few smiles, laughs and awww’s from the audience. Yasmin was my personal favorite; the new comer to the city, her take on things and the unique observations that only an outsider can have about the various facets of Mumbai. The shock of her ‘teesri chitthi’ is still with me.

2. The Links: I absolutely LOVED the way the stories were linked! For all practical purposes, Yasmin might have lived in that flat over a year or two ago. Yet, she reached across the time and space and touched Arun through her tapes. Her death might have happened a long time ago, but the shock of it hit Arun when he saw her tape. For him, she’d just died. Arun and Shai sharing the same Dhobi, (Munna), Pesi depending on Munna’s brother for his dope, were some interesting yet done-before sort of overlapping of connections but I guess the best one was of people Yasmin filmed and Arun later saw for himself; the next door neighbor, the family in the next building etc.

3. The Narrative Devices: I think writers and directors have forgotten that you can play with narrative devices. The two cameras in this movie, Yasmin’s and Shai’s were beautiful examples. Yasmin’s tapes were like going through someone’s diary. Shai’s pictures were the windows into the little flats in that structure called ‘Mumbai’. They kept the parallel stories running and weaving in and out of each other in an effortless yet elegant manner.

All in all, as a film making project, I’d give it all stars for writing, execution, the works! I loved it! But I’d use the caution button for the general audiences; everyone might nor like this movie. This one wasn’t made with the intentions of bagging awards. It was an idea in the writer’s head and her earnest effort to put on screen.



  1. After reading this i was inspired to watch the movie 🙂
    And i am happy i watched it 🙂

    • Glad you liked it Aram… The movie as well as the review.. 🙂

  2. I agree with almost everything you’ve said. The ‘almost’ since i found that something, inexplicably, was missing in the movie.
    ALSO, would like to add a couple of things
    a) Why is the movie called Dhobi Ghat? i mean its as much about the rest of the city. Did i miss some metaphorical significance?
    b) IF you are to watch it, do go for a Hindi-English cut rather than a Hindi only one since the dubbing’s a tad jarring.

    PS: i like the effortless writing style. Of your blog, that is.

    • I did go for the Hindi- English cut.. it felt natural that way… About the title, well, I must confess a certain curiosity myself….
      And I’m glad you liked the blog.. 🙂 do feel free to read and comment on any of the posts.. 🙂

  3. I feel that Yasmeen story has no connection with the main story. Prateek does not look like or act like a dhobi. Even his dialect are not bihari.

    • Like I said, not everyone would love the make like I did. But thanks for commenting on the blog.. 🙂

  4. i would appreciate your comment on my review of dhobhi ghat
    it is quite the opposite of what you have wriiten

    i think you just like dhobhi ghat so you can feel a little snobbish that you understand “art ” cinema

    • Well, about the snobbish part, I’m not sure I like all art cinema… there are some that appeal to me, then there are those that are totally too abstract for me to like…
      I’m reading your review… Always like different points of view… 🙂
      Thanks for reading though… shows your tolerance for different creativities… 🙂

  5. I am quite amazed that you liked it.
    For me, it was a wonderful movie, probably the best bollywood has offered recently(3 idiots is very avg imo). But not a single person around me liked it.
    Good to see someone who understands cinema

    • Well, I guess its perspective…. And the number of cinematic gems that one has seen…. 🙂

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