Though avoided by mass audience and mixed opinions, Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan Productions ‘Dhobi Ghat’ is breakthrough in the finest Indian film released this year. More than anything, the film is a cinematic poetry dedicated to the city of Mumbai. The film captured indelible moods of Mumbai from local trains to super fast bais , from subway to streets, from high rise buildings to chawls and kholis and from Juhu beach to first spell of Mumbai rain. And along with witnessing the city, we entangle the lives of four characters- different in class, profession and mentality except their unspoken sublime relations. Though remained in limited time on screen, each of them wonderfully brought the shades of abstract human emotions-dream, hope, alienation, separation, joy and misery. It’s like falling in love with city and embracing its all different moods.
Rao didn’t reveal much about the characters or in some case their past and the film has no plot but then that’s the beauty of film like this. All four characters- Prateik as Munna, Monica Dogra as Shai, Kirti Malhotra as Yasmin and above all Aamir remained so tamed and restrained; showing anything more or less revealing than their character. Kudos to Rao for bringing this more offbeat, lifelike and quite not so perfect shade of his otherwise perfectionist hubby! The unexpressed feelings of Munna is overshadowed by the last videotape letters of Yasmin- the most sublime and emotional high of the film. Along with director Rao, Cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray too deserves praise for framing Mumbai in all its rich and intimate portrayal and experimental use of camera.
On the day of the film’s release I eagerly went to cinema hall and Oops!!! Surprisingly the film was not released in my town. Regretfully I went home and waited for piracy to get me the copy. Meanwhile I kept reading its mixed reviews of critics and audience. The film was overwhelmingly welcomed by overseas audience as it’s featured on top 25 in US Box Office meter on IMDB whereas in India wasn’t witnessed by a marginal audience. After watching it today, I must bash Indian critics for praising it on one hand as watching French or world cinema classic and on other hand calling it not a film for mass audience. The film has no entertainment value, they said. I have several questions for the audience. Do we watch cinema just for sake of paisa wasool entertainment? Do we watch cinema just for plot- our favorite stars and song-dance-drama-action entertainment of larger than life? Don’t we watch cinema because it’s one of the most admired and popular artistic medium easy to our senses that made us think even after we left the cinema hall? Don’t we watch it simply to purge our own feelings in darkness for few hours? Why don’t Indian critics and thinking audience create an awareness to watch and explore film like this instead of calling it cinema mere for niche audience? The role of critic is not just to feed the suitable popular taste or bifurcate their opinions dividing the audience in mass and class but to cultivate awareness among audience to appreciate experimental and artistic expressions of cinema. Having said all this, I must say that this view is not particular in regard of this film but an opinion at general. I not at all found the film as abstract and as inscrutable as few of them already made in their reviews.