'Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)' Review: A lyrical rhythm to the modern eccentricity

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

Rimli Bhattacharya

A man’s personality attracts you to such an extent that you go for a one night stand with him. The following morning you are shown the door.

Sounds terrible, huh!

But not that bad. You now befriend your neighbouring dhobi and go on a roaming spree with him. But you are unaware that the same dhobi is also a rat killer in the night.

Coming back to the initial man, he gets hooked up with some video tapes which narrates a heart wrenching story of a young woman stuck in a loveless marriage.

There in his building stays a woman who doesn’t speak at all. Weird, really?

Is there a common connection between all the five characters? Or is it that director Kiran Rao had knitted a story which we are to understand and analyse ourselves as I will be penning down a review. Well, we all must have got an hint that now that I am speaking of the movie ‘Dhobi Ghat’. The film was released on 21 January 2011 (USA), and was also nominated for the Screen Award for most promising debut director.

Why is it that we are so lonely amidst a sea of people in a buzzing metropolis? People evolving from a swarming crowd in their best attire, best car and plenty of money but are lonely and lost. Arun (played by veteran actor Aamir Khan) is one such example, though Kiran Rao never mentions in her movie if Arun had a car. But I have every reason to say so as he comes with an uptown woman Shai (played by Monica Dogra) without a car to his lonely apartment, has a one night stand and next morning shows her the door. It is clear he doesn’t seek for a companionship. He is busy painting his empty canvas with myriad colors like moods, heart break and to find a meaning of his own life. The somber Arun gets involved virtually with Yasmin whose tapes he recovers from his newly rented apartment. Stuck in an unhappy marriage Yasmin (played by Kriti Malhotra) pours her heart to her brother Imran but not for a moment mentions about her unhappiness. She is in a quest of love from her husband which she never gets. So Yasmin is also lonely much like Arun who doesn’t even have a knowledge of what he wants from this goddamn city Mumbai.

Is Arun the central character of the movie? Let’s move our lens towards Shai. Rejected by Arun she befriends a friendly Dhobi Munna (played by Prateik Babbar). Neither can Shai forget Arun nor she can live a single day without Munna. That Munna who washes dirty laundry of the sprawling neighborhood and is a rat killer by night, a profession he doesn’t want to reveal but ultimately gets caught from none other than Shai. Munna and his family are thrown out of their chawlthanks to Munna’s brother who was a goon and gets killed in some rivalry. Shai wanted to see Arun in Munna which Munna could perceive and distances himself from her. Munna loved Shai.

So is Shai a loner, inspite of being wealthy and one who could buy anything and is not in mercy of others. Shai’s longing for Arun, Munna’s longing for Shai, Arun’s quest for anuptown woman errr……. I am not sure about Arun. But Munna, what is he looking for? He has lost Shaimemsaab. Well Yasmin’s torment is understood but all these characters are somewhat dysfunctional as lost in the myriad textures of Arun’s empty canvas.

Kiran Rao’s debut Dhobi Ghat is emotional and is heavily diffused with longing, mood and lost souls. If Arun is a self-absorbed person, Shai and Yasmin portrays strength as well as vulnerability and Munna too chic for his crumbling chawl and the sensual neighbourhood proves men from slums can be decent. However not to forget the fifth character, Mumbai a city where I too dwell engulfs you.

Kudos to Rao for her magical movie, a lyrical rhythm to the modern eccentricity. It is her intellect which screams behind her lens to watch these parallel films. Just so you know I too am a vulnerable woman residing in Mumbai promising myself each time of quitting the city a reason unknown to me. Time we revisit Dhobi Ghat and contemplate on the meaning of our lives.

About Author 

Rimli Bhattacharya is a first class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering with a MBA in supply chain management. She has contributed to two anthologies, A Book of light and Muffled Moans and has written two solo books, The crosshairs of life and That day it rained and other stories. Her other works have appeared in twenty nine literary magazines & E – Zines. She is also an Indian Classical dancer. Views expressed are personal.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated 

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