Dhobi Ghat is indeed a Mumbai Diary..

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Kiran Rao’s first film does have its moments. And some extremely bright spots.

Consider this dialog that Prateik’s character, Munna speaks, on being asked about his background:

– that he is not from Mumbai,

– that he came from small town Bihar,

– that he came at an age of 8, to his uncle who was here,

– that he has never gone back since,

– that he doesn’t really miss Bihar, and is comfortable about not going back,

– that home was “okay”,

– that he used to be “hungry” at home,

– that the first job he got on coming to Mumbai, was at a hotel, where he got a lot of slaps but also got enough food.

This is the story of Mumbai, and the place it holds for Indians. A place that provides. A place that is better than their home, even if there is struggle here.

And Munna struggles, for sure. He runs the dhobi ghat, washes and irons clothes, and delivers them to his customers. The whole works. And then at night, when the pavement dwellers sleep, he goes out with his stick and big torch, and finds them rodents and kills them. And makes the street a safer place for the migrants to keep sleeping in peace!

Yes, Mumbai’s tough. But it still provides. And leaves room to dream. As Prateik dreams to get into films. Now getting into films may be the most cliched dream, but think of it as an example. Someone could dream of building houses, or becoming another Dhirubhai. Here it is the next Salman Khan, perhaps, for Munna. But that again is part of Mumbai. It enables you to dream..

As you look out into the sea and get wet in the rains. Yes, the sea and the rains. Two extremely powerful and unique symbolisms of Mumbai. Shown repeatedly by Kiran Rao, reminded me that if it was not for the sea and the rains, the magic of Mumbai would have not been there at all! As Mumbaiites, we take these for granted. But both are such powerful connects to Mumbai – almost like the cliched “spirit of Mumbai”.

The character of the young Muslim bride is a classic. Extremely excited to be in Mumbai first, seeping in all of the ‘bhel-puri’ and ‘pav bhaji’ of Mumbai, video taping and commenting on all that fascinates her, about the city, but as time goes by, and the reality of big city life sinks in, you see the spirit waning. And yet, she maintains a matter-of-fact reality front. Is that again how a Mumbaiite takes life? Which is where, he moves on, after the riots, and after being abused and ill treated by the powers that be, in spite of its critical role in the country’s economy? I wonder..

Aamir Khan and Monica Dogra have high visibility in the film, but they are only bridges connecting to Prateik and Kiran, the real “characters” exemplifying the diary of Mumbai!

I love the visuals of Mumbai, the old crowded streets, the cramped flats, the funny, forking streets full of people and vehicles, the Marine Drive especially at night, crowded streets of Mohammed Ali Road in Ramzan nights, etc. Its been done before, but I like it here too.

So why are so many complaining that the film does not work?

Because it is more of a diary and less of a film! That’s why..

Yes, it has been equated to a good documentary, and while that may be a tad unfair tag to give, it goes closer to being a rambling of scenes and visuals and experiences, rather than a real story woven out, and delivered. Even if it had to take only 95 minutes to do so.

So I guess, if you are looking for a good story, and typical entertainment, you may safely skip this one. On the other hand, if you are looking to “see” Mumbai, especially if you are a born-and-brought-up Mumbaikar, and want to see Mumbai from the eyes of an outsider (which is what most of modern Mumbai is about), you may like this view.

  1. simarprit says:

    I will watch, I want you watch, your blog makes sure that the yes/no game I was playing gets over and I go for it. More comments after i do that. Great review Sanjay, keep it flowing.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sanjay Mehta, Romit Mehta. Romit Mehta said: My views on Dhobi Ghat: http://bit.ly/eHQfRt yes, Dhobi Ghat is indeed a diary of Mumbai. By @sm63 /totally agree, must-watch for bombayite […]

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