Monday, January 24, 2011

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai diaries)

Its really been a long time since I wrote my last post here. I started this blog with much determination but was totally without any idea of how I was going to be regular on here. There were a few books that I had to read and a few films that I had to watch, and hence with a slight (may be recurrently transient) inclination towards English, I started this blog. I couldn't finish those books through this time and, although, managed to watch those movies, just couldn't get enough time to spare here. Maybe, sometimes, career has to be put ahead of hobby, I suppose. Anyways, with no more boring stuff let me come straight to the point.
Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai Diaries......what was it, story of the city mumbai, story of the four characters, story of the character mumbai, story of their life or just Kiran Rao's experiment with film-making? What it really was? It was nothing, but a simple way of story-telling. The telling of the stories of the four lives, stories which does not start with their start or doesn't end at their ends. It starts from somewhere, at some point in their life and all of a sudden, after almost 95 mins, ends abruptly at some another point in their life downstream.
We in India have been watching movies that take somebody as a central character and then just take us through either the whole life right from its birth to the end or through a special episode in that life. Dhobi Ghat is completely different on this aspect (and, by the way, also on many other aspects). The original notion of bollywood of making films based on characters having quite an eventful life is being challenged here with this very simple, yet very different art form. Most of us, common people, take birth and die, and in between lead just an uneventful life. Dhobi Ghat is just about a small passing by part of such uneventful lives of four characters.
Arun (Aamir Khan) is a painter by profession, a loner by attitude and a question for everybody who comes in contact with him, including the audience. He has serious problems with relationships, is a divorcee, loves to live alone and has no one really to talk or rather doesn't like to talk to anybody. His only acquaintance is Yasmeen (Kriti Malhotra), a small town girl who comes to Mumbai as a newly wed and is busy in exploring Mumbai and making videos for her brother. She is the only one who manages to arouse interest in Arun's lonely head that too through her video tapes that Arun just finds serendipitously.
Shai (Monica Dogra) is a investment banker in America who is on her Sabbatical and is exploring Mumbai just for the sake of her hobby, photography. She manages to have a one-night stand with Arun (who denied any prospect of a long term relationship out of this), and then manages to find Munna (Prateik Babbar), a neighbourhood dhobi and starts exploring Mumbai. Shai sees the different characters of the city with Munna's eyes. Munna is a migrant from Bihar, who has a deep feeling for but is hesitant of any kind of relationship with Shai.
To say that the movie is all about these four characters and their interaction with Mumbai is totally wrong. Its nothing about it. After so many featurette released, so many of interviews of the film-makers watched, one enters the cinema hall with a clear-cut idea in his mind that there is gonna be a completely different experience inside. And yet, one walks out of the theatre dumb-struck. Nothing to think, nothing to say, no opinion, no views. Thats the real beauty of the movie. It manages to keep its "differentness" even after your expectations of differentness is at its highest level.
To say that the movie is completely flawless is totally untrue. The characters of Shai and, even, Munna, are a bit beyond understandings for me although Prateik Babbar as Munna has showed real glimpse of his immense talent in acting. Although, the cinematography is fabulous, editing could have been a lot better. The biggest reason why the movie is not gonna be liked by masses in India is the story of the movie, because there is not any. We, the masses in India, have watched the Johars and the Chopras so much that we only think of their stories to be STORIES although, they attack haplessly on our emotions. For those who keep themselves in 'intellectual' category, the stories of films from recent years who have promised to be different like Udaan or Dasvidaniya are the stories to look for, although, they attack on us emotionally. Dhobi Ghat with its complete novice idea does not attack at all. It, now, might define the 'intellectual' category amongst the movie-goers in India.
Marissa Bronfman writes about the movie and about its premiere at Toranto International Film Festival at The Huffington Post. Excerpts:
"There were no choreographed dance sequences, no lip-synched songs, so while Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) may not have been a typical Bollywood blockbuster, it is paving the way for a new era in Indian cinema to emerge without sacrificing it's heart along the way.....At its world premiere in Toronto, Dhobi Ghat showed the world that Indian cinema is no longer stuck making homelessly formulaic films and that the industry is growing up and starting to experiment with different characters and narratives."

Well, all in all, Dhobi Ghat is a wonderful collage of faces on the canvas of life which does not end. It goes on. There are no resolutions in the end, there are no morals too. Just like it starts from somewhere, it ends at somewhere abruptly, maybe because, it has no end, maybe because life has no end. It moves on, it goes on and on and on...


nidhi said...

hmmm...even i could'nt decide what it was...but nevertheless i have only one grudge against the movie....acc to me it was nothing diff or new,neither a very wonderful piece....such short pieces have been created before(referred as 'telefilms' in doordarshan) a similar form ...only diff is ...'they did'nt have aamir khan tag and were released not in a film festival but on doordashan' this film is good but not is being reffered to by many...

Arundhati Mallik said...

Everyone knew that a film from the Aamir Khan genre is not going to dole out the usual run of the mill stuff...people like me find this factor irresistible...why is it what it is...we need not torture our grey cells...but what it is a delight...refreshingly refreshing...a series of events and developments you can completely relate to...human failings, desires so real that leave you doumbfounded...I mean how was Kiran so blase about it? And the secret of the movie's charm lies subtle innuendoes but a bare statement of fact...precice, no pretensions...take it or leave it.Hats off to the lady to dare to be different...

Alok said...

I thought the film was wonderful, in fact one of the best I have seen in recent years.

About the lack of story, a piece of music doesn't tell you any story yet it still affects your moods and emotions. This film contains many such individual pieces strung together. About not knowing what to feel, I can't say about others but it did communicate to me the feeling of "not desperate but quiet" sort of sadness and loneliness, harshness of life in a big city and yet how life in all its banalities goes on... And of course as you also notice, the film is beautifully shot. The street scenes, slums, ordinary life in mumbai every image has this power which can only come from the feeling of authenticity. This again makes you realise how annoying unreal and false the settings of most bollywood films are.

Personally, I thought Yasmin's section was quite powerful and affecting, the way her videos and narration capture the ordinary poetry of everyday life was just amazing.

I did think there were a few false notes in the film... Munna's affair with the rich woman for example, or the way Aamir Khan plays arun felt very self-conscious to me... like trying too hard to act all brooding and stuff. And a true loner never says "I'm a loner" :) But overall i think the film holds up very well.

Shalu Sharma said...

You know, I still haven't seen this movie yet but I ought to take some time off to watch it.