Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dhobi Ghat: Cerebral Entertainment At Its Best

Arun caresses his canvass in an extremely self assured manner knowing well that he's creating a masterpiece. And that's exactly the sentiment you get about debutante director Kiran Rao who paints 'Dhobi Ghat' with colors of uncompromised brilliance. It is delicate storytelling at its best aided by a mind blowing background score ensuring that the narrative flows like a gurgling mountain stream.

Dhobi Ghat is a fine work of Art. There are many layers and it can be interpreted by different people according to their own viewpoint towards life. It's a superb ode to Mumbai. No, over the top paens about the done-to-death spirit of the city but rather a subtle understanding of the glorious co-existence of the stinking-richness and monsoon-dripping unpredictability in the sprawling chawls. Strangers become friends and redefine selflessness. Also, it salutes a very unique aspect of Mumbai: Self Respect. Whatever one does in Mumbai, they respect what they do.

The film is 95 mins in duration but it doesn't hurry to reach from Point A to Point B. It meanders in the bylanes of subconscious. An artiste in Arun (Aamir Khan) grapples with his personal issues and a quest for an unusual muse. Shai (Monica Dogra), an investment banker and a passionate photographer flirts with physical love and her infatuation for Arun grows stronger because of his rejection. Munna (Prateik), the laundry boy is a catalyst, a link. Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) had her own small world that accepted whatever came her way with an innocent smile.

It seems the director is in search for her own artistic expression emanating from myriad experiences which has a beginning, a poignant middle and a cathartic culmination. A painting that has its fair share of tumultous how-to-start thoughts and when it is finished, there's a sense of Closure. And once the painting is done, its open to self interpretation by whoever is looking at it. Greatness of any Art is how it gives solace to a cross section of people.

Gustavo Santaolalla's background score is an intrinsic part of the narrative. For the musical pauses, the haunting silences, communication through the mere body language says a lot more than mere words. Nishant Radhakrishnan's editing is seamless. No jarring movements or smart-ass-cuts. The scenes intercut in a smooth manner. Tushar Kanti Ray's camerawork is as Real as it gets capturing the naturalness in all its hues and shades. Art Direction is impressive for there's a minute detailing in what fits the context of various actors and their respective situations.

Aamir Khan is excellent. He internalises the graph of his character. An artist living in claustrophobic circumstances, mood swings, an uncompromising artistic arrogance. No, its not Khan the superstar you are watching. Its Arun. Prateik is a gifted actor with a fine flair for comedy and intensity. Watch his eyes glaze as he innocently lusts Shai or the fervent run borne out of guilt or a sense of shame. Monica Dogra has a raw sensuous appeal and a natural flair for acting. The coquetishness, an urge to absorb the surroundings and a ready smile...she makes a place in the audience's mind space. Kriti Malhotra has the correct North Indian diction and moves you immensely with her simplicity.

Kiran Rao makes a stellar debut with 'Dhobi Ghat'. And she has been supported to the hilt by producer Aamir Khan. I would sum it up as No-Compromise-Cinema! There's no interval, no songs and no trappings of typical commercial cinema. It is cerebral entertainment at its best.


  1. Thanks for the review, Faridoon! Really glad to see a major film based in Mumbai again, there are plenty of newer films that seem to enjoy and celebrate Delhi's many facets. Enjoyed your review, sounds like it's a can't miss on the big screen, shall hope to catch it soon!

  2. Thanks buddy, glad u liked it...lemme know what u think of the film if u watch it...cheers :)

  3. Faridoon..thanks for the review. I also saw Kiran's interview on your show.It is truly a great film and a fine piece of art indeed. Keep writing.

  4. Thanks Fatal. Glad u liked my thoughts on the film :) cheers!

  5. And also when you say - "cerebral entertainment" do you mean it's devoid of emotions.I think there were many form of emotions in the film but not at the surface..not melodramatic. So..I think it's not so cerebral entertainment.

  6. Thanks for ur thoughts. When i say cerebral, i mean it appeals to the intellect. You have to use your mind to understand the various nuances that flow in the film. Maybe that's why there's no interval for it may have broken the chord somewhere. In such a film as this when silences speak more than words, you require Intellect to even gauge the intensity of emotions. Its inter related I feel.

  7. @Dumb ?
    @Faridoon - Yes..an interval would have broken the flow. Why did you call Aamir's character an 'artiste' and not artist? Any special thing you noticed to say him artiste.
    Is there anything that you did not like about the film?

  8. Well, @Dumb is paid to write silly stuff on my blog but alas i had to delete his silly comment :) U r right it should have been 'artist'. I've made the correction. What I did not like about the film? I'd say Prateik is at times too chic. For a Dhobi, it was an aberration.

  9. OMG! Love your review .. hopefully will watch it very very soon :)

    btw, ur awesome .. keep it up :)

  10. Thanks Abby...glad u liked the review and glad u like my work...cheers :)

  11. Loved your review. Very articulate. I wish I was able to express my thoughts this clearly.

    One line i loved the most from your review:

    "There are many layers and it can be interpreted by different people according to their own viewpoint towards life. "

    Exactly my thoughts. You know when i was watching the movie, i wasn't this sad. But after going over this movie in my head for several hours now, I can't help but to feel for Yasmin and Saleem. The movie left it upon us to decide how to feel and that is haunting me the most. I can't believe I am feeling like I was in the movie, i just want to take those tapes and give it to Yasmin's brother.... i just can't get over her character.

    I have been discussing this movie for the last few hours and one intriguing this that someone pointed out to me was the conversation between aamir and the guy who was hesitant to say anything about yasmin and lata bai. I too think now that it was significant. Arun wasn't told the full truth on purpose. Good writers usually don't put the scenes for the heck of it... Kiran prolly gave a subtle hint there.

    I am sure you noticed the absence of fan in the latter scene before aamir goes to the silent neighbor. Speaking of silent neighbor, the screen flashes of her are haunting me right now. What do you think her significance was? God, this is reminding me of a TV series LOST - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_(TV_series)

    Anyhow, I will be looking for more solutions to this Dhobi Ghat puzzle in the next few days. I hope you'll have some answers.

    On a sidenote, its heartening to see so many people liking this movie. I had thought that Indian audience wouldn't like it at all but I have read so much praise about it. My reason for liking it was intriguing quality of the movie but others seem to be enjoying poetry and no compromise cinema.

  12. "There are many layers and it can be interpreted by different people according to their own viewpoint towards life. "

    Right..that was the best line in the review.there were many layers in the movie..I can see atleast 7 layers..what do you think guys?

  13. Wow plazabollywood u've really articulated urself beautifully. Exactly my thoughts after teh movie, that it stays with u after its over. Yes my heart went out to Yasmeen as well. Even i thought about imran and that arun shud hand over the tapes to him...but i guess letting the loose ends remain untied makes it even more poignant....

    Fatal, can't really say how many layers were there in the film but yes its like a beautiful painting filled with thought provoking abstractions and a very subtle but loving ode to Bombay...

    Thanks guys!

  14. faridoon u r nice and hardworking guy...n simply u ROCK...GOD BLESS

  15. Thanks Armana...God bless u as well...:)

  16. do you think that background score was boring and dull? If not, then why have you written that background score is mind numbing???

  17. Yup Yashpal, agreed, it was a wrong usage, have corrected that to mind-blowing...thanks