After much contemplation, I decided to go and watch Kiran Rao’s debut venture, Dhobi Ghat. During the last week, I had caught many TV interviews (whilst being in Mumbai) of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao in promotion of this film and I became somewhat intrigued. Firstly, I wasn’t drawn in to the film so much by its trailer… don’t ask me why. It was widely reported that this was not your average signature Aamir Khan movie but that he was simply playing a character in it. This fact alone left me a little bewildered. Surely, the very fact that Aamir Khan was not only acting in but also producing this film was enough to make the audiences sit up and take notice? Well, it seems it was… but then came the statement by Khan himself in one such promotional interview that this is the first time that a movie like this was being put out there which didn’t have any kind of social or moral message. He, very frankly, stated that Dhobi Ghat was a film about relationships and that it was made up of simple moments. Was I drawn in yet? Yes! Why? Well, films that are made up of moments are usually the ones which we most appreciate… right?
I’ve got to start by saying that the world created by Dhobi Ghat totally lured me in. Although the world of the Dhobi Ghat was an understated backdrop in the movie, it is very much the performances which stood out for me. The movie follows Munna (played by Prateik Babbar), Arun (Aamir Khan), Shai (Monica Dogra) and Yasmin (Kirti Malhotra). Their lives are somewhow interwined with one anothers and the story unfolds with this very theme at it’s centre. Although it’s hard to imagine such a movie receiving as much commercial acclaim as critical, it’s important to take into account that most of the characters are played by virtually new faces and this is what sets the movie apart. If it wasn’t for the role of Arun played by Khan, it is quite possible that Dhobi Ghat may not have received as much attention as it has done and is doing.
It is right to say that Dhobi Ghat, much like No One Killed Jessica, is in no way your average Bollywood movie. With an atmospheric choice of background score and just about 2 hours to it’s name, the film is impressionable to say the least, albeit a little slow-paced. On a personal note, I’ve got to emphasise that I very much liked and appreciated the way in which Khan was placed in this movie by his beloved wife, the director and writer. Although it was a fight for him to even get the role of Arun, Khan doesn’t shine in the way we’re used to but shine he does. It is the first time he is playing the role of a character that isn’t likeable and who is a little grumpy. Although it feels a little odd to say this, I would like to say that in my view, I feel that he plays this role with a lot of grace, with the right amount of emotion and aloofness. I came out of the movie holding a different kind of respect for the actor and producer that is Aamir Khan.
For me, it is Prateik Babbar as Munna who totally steals the show. He shows that he is his mother’s son in a role which is author-backed. When watching the promos of the movie, it is Babbar who stood out for me and when watching the movie, it is still him who stands out all the way through. An actor who received acclaim in his role in Aamir Khan produced Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, it seems Kiran Rao’s choice for the role of Munna couldn’t have been more perfect. The innocence, the intensity and the vulnerability required by the character of Munna would’ve have been difficult to find in another actor so fresh and so new to the industry. Prateik Babbar has very much ARRIVED!
As a final thought, I would like to express disappointment at the ending of Dhobi Ghat. Although it’s hard to imagine how this story could’ve concluded with the absence of a social message, I feel the ending could’ve been a lot stronger and poignant. Perhaps a more content and “happy” finale would’ve worked better rather than an open ending which somewhat leaves the viewer to decide the future of the relationships between the characters. All said, Dhobi Ghat is yet another movie to arrive at the start of 2011 which will go on to make it’s own path and which has given birth to a writer and director par excellence in Kiran Rao. Rao comes across as a talented individual who isn’t happy hiding behind the stupendous success and power of her husband but more a lady who wants to be indentified and appreciated on her own merit. More power to you… and more power to future ventures similar to and better than Dhobi Ghat.