Synopsis: In the teeming metropolis of Mumbai, four people separated by class and language are drawn together in compelling relationships. Shai, an affluent investment banker on a sabbatical, strikes up an unusual friendship with Munna, a young and beautiful laundry boy with ambitions of being a Bollywood actor, and has a brief dalliance with Arun, a gifted painter. As they slip away from familiar moorings and drift closer together, the city finds its way into the crevices of their inner worlds.
Dhobi Ghat 7.5
eyelights: the characters, the performances. the overall vibe.
eyesores: the mundane story.
‘Dhobi Ghat’ is an Indian drama about a love triangle of sorts. It’s not a Bollywood, however. I was thankful for that; I don’t think I could stand to have the film interrupted by overblown musical numbers. In fact, the only reason I watched it was because I knew there wouldn’t be any singing and dancing.
It’s a pretty straight-forward affair: Shai is an American banker who returns to Mumbai for some time off. There she meets Arun, a renowned young painter and falls for him. Meanwhile, Munna is a laundryman who handles Arun’s clothes. He meets Shai when he has to clean one of her shirts and falls for her.
No, Arun doesn’t fall for Munna. That would probably push boundaries far too much in a country where on-screen kissing is still rare. Quite frankly, I was pretty surprised to see that a one night stand opened the movie; I actually didn’t think that this would be permissible. Perhaps values are shifting once and for all.
In fact, there are indications that they are. For instance, Shai was walking around Mumbai with her form-fitting North American casual wear without anyone batting an eye. I’ve been told that, even as recently as 15-20 years ago, she would not have been able to do this in such a conservative country.
Personally, I’m unaware of these changes, having never visited India. But I was aware of the situation there, so I enjoyed seeing these minute but significant cultural shifts; a country that gave us the Kama Sutra likely shouldn’t be as uptight as it’s been in recent times, should it? I don’t know about you, but it seems sort of discrepant to me.
Anyway, I very much liked the whole vibe of the picture, even if it didn’t offer up anything really out of the ordinary. We’ve all seen love triangle stories before, and this one is no different: she is obsessed with the painter, the cleaner is obsessed with her, and the painter is obsessed with himself. Been there, done that.
However, the setting brings a freshness that one wouldn’t get if it were merely set in some modern metropolis or in small town U.S.A.: the streets are different, the people are different, everything looks and sounds (and likely smells) different from what we know here. I totally dug the ambiance that this created.
Anyway, for all its trivialities, the script was put together quite well. I have no gripes whatsoever; there are no lapses in logic or gaps that need filling. And it even gave us an ending that wasn’t entirely recycled, that was tender and took the high road, giving us honourable characters, not self-serving !@#$.
The actors delivered as well. Although I found Monica Dogra the weakest of the lot, she gave a naturalistic performance that made her easy to watch. Meanwhile, Prateik Babbar and Aamir Khan gave properly intense turns as the lovelorn cleaner and the self-absorbed painter whose career is beginning to take off. I’d watch all three again.
All this to say that ‘Dhobi Ghat’ was a solid, if conventional, film. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, plot wise, but what it dishes out it did well. Anyone who loves foreign film and/or drama would likely be satisfied with a serving of ‘Dhobi Ghat’.
Date of viewing: May 4, 2013