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.