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DHOBI GHAT - Movie Review : A short but just OK offbeat film which can be watched once for Prateik instead of Aamir. (Review By Bobby Sing)
21 Jan, 2011 | Movie Reviews / 2011 Releases

Another offbeat film coming from the house of Aamir Khan is bound to raise the expectation level of the viewers after PEEPLI LIVE. And further if it has the numero uno Aamir Khan featuring in it too, then obviously the levels tend to rise up to even greater heights.

So keeping in mind the artistic genre of the movie and the viewers expectations associated with it, Aamir realized the risky situation and took a very important step of not promoting DHOBI GHAT at all like he earlier did at the time of PEEPLI LIVE. In addition to this he simply chose to be silent because he very well knew that DHOBI GHAT was not the usual entertaining kind of stuff for the viewers and they might feel cheated if he went on to promote it like that.
Opening with a scene shot by a hand held camera and a voice-over coming from the background, the film straight away gives you an idea that its going to be a complete off-beat kind of project moving away from the usual bollywood stuff in all departments. And that really excited me a lot as I really wanted to see something different and good coming from the talented team of Aamir Khan productions. But as the film progressed I enjoyed it calmly but didn’t find anything great, exceptional or path breaking unfolding on the screen as far as the content is concerned. No doubt it has one worth watching performance by a talented son of a highly honorable name of the industry, Smita Patil. But apart from that I found DHOBI GHAT just an OK movie, which though is made intelligently but on the other hand it also moves around the key character of a lady who is completely confused and ready to mingle just with anybody she meets on her short visit to the city of Mumbai from America.
Another reason why I was not so impressed by the film may be that I have already seen many much better movies from the World Cinema which talk about three or four different stories together, walking into each other and then creating an interesting kind of situation in the climax. For example, the movies of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who has given us gems like 21 GRAMS, AMORES PERROS and BABEL. In fact the director Kiran Rao seems to be quite impressed from this Mexican director since her movie has got a very interesting connection with him, which might have been intentional. DHOBI GHAT’s background music has been composed by the Argentine Composer Gustavo Santaolalla who was also the composer for Inarritu’s BABEL. So the inspiration angle is right there which clearly indicates what might have influenced Kiran Rao to select this kind of script for her directorial debut.
The choice of the subject may have been fine and its execution on the screen can also be called enigmatic. But its script was not upto the mark as per my understanding because I found many loose ends and un-required plots in the movie which were added just to give it an artistic and off beat feel as desired. Like I couldn’t understand the mind-state of the leading lady called Shai in the film, who was on a short visit to Mumbai from America. Now even when she was just visiting the city on a short tour, why was she so keen on making deep loving relationships with just about anyone she met, including the Dhobi coming to her home where she was staying. Moreover she even seemed to be too casual in going physical in all those relationships as if she was habitual of a very open kind of lifestyle suggesting many other things. Coming to the Dhobi of Dhobi Ghat (Prateik), it was very confusing to see him having a strange kind of relationship with one of his rich lady clients like a paid sexual performer. Did Kiran wished to show him working as a GIGOLO too? Further the sequences of Prateik’s rat-killing job in the nights also looked like deliberately inserted only for showing something new on the screen having very less impact on the actual story otherwise. Or maybe it had some kind of hidden meaning in it which I was not able to understand. Also there is no explanation given for the mute lady character living next to Aamir who is just sitting still all the time and yet has got nobody to feed or take care of her, ever visible on the screen.
Besides the questions mentioned above, I found the film pretty low on the emotional level. In other words it fails to make an emotional connect with the viewers instantly. The characters remain under-defined and fail to leave an impact on the viewer (with an exception of Prateik). For example while watching it, one neither feels any kind of seriousness in the love shown by Shai for Aamir, nor one feels sorry for Aamir when he comes to know about the tragedy happened with the earlier tenant of his newly acquired house. The only connection felt is in the final scene where Prateik runs before Shai’s car to give her the surprise of her life unexpectedly.
DHOBI GHAT is only around 95-100 minutes of duration. But surprisingly such short duration also seems to be too long in the theater as the pace is so slow and keeps dropping regularly. And in the end you actually feel like watching a full 3 hour length movie as usual. So despite of being so short, it still required a more crispier edit in the final stages.
Yet the saving grace of the film comes in the form of Cinematography and Performances which in turn make it a watchable venture for sure. The exceptional camerawork in DG introduces you to the city of Mumbai in a novel style which would be loved both by the Mumbaikars as well as the lovers of the city living anywhere else. Its various captivating shots bring back the old charm of the city in a great style which undoubtedly deserves a special mention here as a must. Plus the Background Score is impressive and suits the mood and ambience of the movie quite aptly. However I felt as if Kiran Rao in her debut movie, was more interested in the cinematogarphy, concept and feel of the movie on the whole and had given quite less emphasis on the characterisation and depth of her actors emoting on the screen.
In the performances department the two ladies making their debuts in the movie are just perfect for their respective roles and they rightly prove why they were chosen by the makers among the wide choice available. Especially Monika Dogra as Shai looks charming on the screen and even emotes well with the right expressions on her face. But her dialogues have been dubbed in Hindi for an undisclosed reason. Still she is sure going to be noticed by the industry without any doubt. Kriti Malhotra as the lady on the video tape is very natural and leaves her own mark on the viewer. But sadly her role and characterization remains incomplete and for that the culprit remains the script.
Aamir Khan once again underplays intentionally and gives way to the other co-actors in the script like he previously did in TAARE ZAMEEN PAR. But again his character remains an ill defined one, which does not allow the viewers to feel for him from their hearts. And therefore the sole attraction of DHOBI GHAAT remains Prateik as he is right there standing tall with an applaudable performance in the film, moving ahead of everyone else. The boy has got a great gifted talent which is clearly visible in his remarkable expressions and impactful dialogue delivery style. In fact its actually his performance alone which makes DHOBI GHAAT a watchable movie for once.
Overall, if you are an avid fan of WORLD CINEMA then DHOBI GHAAT may turn out to be just an OK or above average film in the end. But you may like it if you haven’t seen any of the similar movies from the other parts of the words far superior than DG. In any case, it still can be watched once for Prateik alone instead of Aamir. But I was really expecting a lot more from Kiran Rao and her DHOBI GHAT.

Ratings : 2.5 / 5

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21 Jan 2011 / Comments ( 4 )
Prateik's character is of an person struggling to make a living in Mumbai and has high aspirations.He wants to make money by doing any work and hence the rat killing scene is inserted in the movie.This shows that to earn money in mumbai you should be ready to do anything in case you are not a very qualified person.

The Mute Lady character represents the Mumbai City.The character sees people laughing, crying but never reacts. Same is the city which remains calm and quite irrespestive of whats happing around.

I feel Aamir's character was properly defined as per the script requirements.
He is simple,lonely, creative and emotional person, how is looking for inspirations which can take his work to newer levels.
Bobby Sing

Thanks Mohit for visiting and your kind comment with the explanations.
Your points are valid and I understand them well, yet I still am not sure why no one was shown looking after the mute lady and in absence of that how she was surviving,

Moreover the basic thing in my opinion is that the inner or deep meaning of any scene only works when it actually reaches the people seeing it, which in the case of Dhobi Ghaat was not there which is further now very clear when you look at the viewers response.

The film is a profitable venture only because its Amir Khan's home production made at a limited budget. And I really wonder what Aamir would have done if an outsider would have gone to him with the same script.

Thats what I call LIFE playing its games very playfully.


Deepti Sharma

I have seen this movie very late and i want to tell u how i felt after seeing it. i could very much relate to yasmin noor's character who was new to the city and noticed the small simple things about a city so busy with its fast life, especially when she says, '....zyadatar log to yahan (marine drive) hawa khane aate hain jiski kafi kami hai...' or abt how her neighbor's maid works so fast or how the sea is so calm .

I cudnt understand amir's changing reactions to the situations as in the very beginning he was shown to be like a very serious, angry and moody while his painting exhibition and later when he meets shai the second time...he didnt seem to be the 'ARUN' of DG rather RANCHO from 3 idiots. I really liked the photography by Shai (i dont know who actually did it). Rest all u have already mentioned in ur review....and believe me when i say that ur words come straight through my heart. :)

Bobby Sing

Thanks a lot Deepti for your loving and encouraging comment. And glad to know that you liked the film too.
Keep visiting and write in more often.

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