dhobi ghat: first thoughts

This isn’t a review. No spoilers, I promise.

If you are going to see this movie, there are a few things you should remember. It is 90-something minutes and there is no interval. The multiplexes can’t charge anything below Rs.100 for a new movie and you are bound to feel cheated if you paid that much, got in at 10:30 and out by 12 noon. So the screens will show you 25 minutes of trailers. And you sit there and you watch the trailers wondering why you paid for this (I was thinking I could’ve had a bath instead of rushing to Cinemax in my pajamas). Anyway, Dhobi Ghat draws first blood, if unintentionally: paid advertising gets a whole new meaning.

I am happy that this film was made because it is very bold. It is not conventional. And by unconventional I don’t mean the usual Aamir-Khan-unconventional. It is beyond even that. As anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows by now, it is the story of four very different people in Bombay. The title has (mumbai diaries) in its name for a reason. These stories are not followed start through to finish. They are snatches of lives lived anonymously in the Big city. Thus, don’t expect a strict storyline; there is none. Two points to Dhobi Ghat.

There were two pieces that immediately came to my mind when I started seeing the film. Altaf Tyrewala’s 2005 debut novel No God in Sight. The link leads to a review I did long back and it is uncanny how well parts of that review fit this movie. It has a similar premise and attempts to sketch Bombay without ever touching it directly. Second piece: Dibakar Banerjee’s 2010 film Love, Sex aur Dhokha for the rustic camera work that Dhobi Ghat opens with.

Now, the issues: one of the four leads is badly cast and it shows. Her narration is protracted, unnatural and mundane. Coming in close at second is the other female lead who is only a shade better than the first. Prateik (should I call him Babbar?) does the best job for me. Aamir Khan is half here, half there. Minus one.

The biggest concern maybe that most cinema halls/multiplexes don’t provide an atmosphere conducive to appreciating the movie. It is alternate, we’ve established that. So if people start laughing at beautifully composed black-&-white frames because the people in it are simple looking, non-glamorous hawkers it can get pissing off. Your average Joe comes to the cinema with his girl and neither of them are there for cinematic appreciation. He’s looking to drop wise-cracks to make her laugh. She’s (probably) there to humour him. So you get laughter where none is asked for. Kills it.

Endgame: If you like parallel films, try and catch a late night show when the crowd is thinnest. I won’t call it genius, but it’s good to see such things being made. It’s a start. If you are in no rush wait for a good DVDrip (if you are into downloading) or buy the thing when it comes out. Get good headphones and watch at peace.

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8 thoughts on “dhobi ghat: first thoughts

  1. Totally agreed. But u dint mention abt d wonderful photography n music. Prateik’s acting made it even good. None of my frnz liked it except akshay. Sad!!

  2. Ah, yes. The music is good, very easily flowing, very apt. And I mentioned the beautiful frames. Even otherwise the cinematography was good.

  3. I think at least half a year will go by before I get to watch a hindi film. ANY hindi film. Without travelling to another city and spending a fortune on a ticket, of course. I’ve wanted to watch this for so long.

  4. It's a good thing, really. To watch any movie at the point of its release is to expose yourself to unhealthy hype, and influence your otherwise sound opinion (case in point: Benjamin Button). I you do watch it later, I will look forward to your views on it. You are much better qualified.

  5. About your comment on the audience, I had a similar experience. It was quite irritating. As for the film, Babbar is brilliant (I’d like to call him that because alliteration happens.)The girl who played Yasmine is very good, she is so real and her reality is doubled with the handycam. The film I thought was a take on musing. Notice how each of the four of them finds their muse in another. It is not about love, like it would have been expected. And that must have been the turn off for the average. I genuinely thought thought that there was a disconnect somewhere in the film. Maybe it comes from my socialization of expecting that-something from the storyline. Cinematography – absolutely brilliant!

  6. Yup, the film is incomplete somewhere, I don't know if that is intentional though. I can't put my finger on it, but the individual parts are good, the sum fails to satisfy.Camera is indeed good. But I didn't like Yasmine too much. Found her narration flat. Perspective, I guess.

  7. i felt and feel very grateful to kiran rao for creating this and seeing it till the end. it could have been lost somewhere and i and so many others would have never got the chance to see it.the incompleteness, as you say held deep appeal for me. i was mesmerised that i couldnt logically point out what and when was ‘missing’, but felt it. bistar par silvat dekhi lekin pata nahi kis cheez ki thi. it was such a mesmerising feeling, knowing something is lost and then your brain sort of slowing down, trying to process why it feels so delicious. 🙂 not just the end, but even in the middles, something would always be out of reach.’mumbai diaries’ – yeah. but didn’t you feel like you had entered this place which simply saw things play out, not for the sake of storytelling, but just like the kind of patience some cities have? i mean, what do they ‘do’?i honestly couldn’t believe i’d just watched such a film and that it was being screened all over the city in big multiplexes too. that was such a surprise.

  8. Oh, I loved the rawness of the film! It is a narrative left to its own elements — like you said, it isn't in a hurry to get somewhere. There is no pressure of a "script" — and to script something like that is beautiful. The film stayed with me, which I can't say about many, many rather awesome films that I've seen. It's a stimulating experience, but unfortunately for me, I saw it in poor company (read: audience). And I've never summoned the patience to watch a film twice from start through till the end. Exceptions: Forrest Gump and Persepolis.

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