Kiran Rao, in keeping with her individualistic style, has pulled an absolute winner in her directorial debut. Irrespective of the film being accepted by the masses, she has definitely announced herself and her style to her audience. Yes, after “Dhobi Ghat” she will definitely have an audience. A niche of her own.
With least regard for traditional story telling formats, “Dhobi Ghat” tells the tale of four individuals through the lens of simplicity. Munna (Prateik Babbar), the dhobi, meets Shai, an NRI banker who comes to India on a sabbatical. Shai (Monica Dongra) comes to Mumbai hoping to capture the sights and sounds of the real Mumbai through her camera and Munna is her willing guide. Arun (Amir) is the artist who Shai becomes increasingly obsessed with. Arun on the other hand has a parallel story of his own. He finds a new muse in the form of a video diary left behind by the previous occupant of his apartment. These tapes are letters documented by a newly married Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), for her brother back home. They tell her story of discovering Mumbai and life with her husband. What happens when the lives of these individuals flow into each other? This is the premise of Dhobi Ghat.
But it’s not the story you’re looking for in this film. It’s the soul of the characters and their realistic and close to life appeal that keeps you captivated. It might seem like a documentary to some, but it has a lot going on that safely keeps it away from that category. The exploration of Munna’s character through the use of rustic dialogue, works well for the realism. Some mirthful moments are the conversations that Yasmin has with her maid through her video camera. These are precisely the moments that make you laugh on the spur of the moment but make you wonder much later. The music also plays an important part in taking the film to another level. It’s minimalistic yet effective and used in the right places.
The good news, however, is that the film’s outlook is positive enough to keep it from being called a dark film. So without much ado, go and watch Kiran Rao intelligently and aesthetically blend story and emotion through film, hand-held cam videos and some spectacular black and white images; and the soul of our beloved city Mumbai to bind them together.