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A morning @ Dhobi Ghat and I decided I do my laundry better

Disclaimer: I agree with anyone who feels I may not be a part of the intended ‘target’ audience. (But I was audience all the same) :D

Munna’s (Prateik Babbar) quite the dhobi: biceps speaking of years spent splashing clothes on the rocks, tees kept away exclusively for a night at the movies (I pity the ones who lost money to Yuvraaj by the way) and celluloid dreams setting sail every night in his home near the railway station. By the by, I don’t get how it is always Munna the dhobi is called. Our dhobi back in Delhi is called the same. It is another story that he is a true-blue inspiration of sorts: the guy’s brilliant at art and is now excelling in the subject at his college in Delhi University. His Dad’s efforts have paid off indeed and I am sure it isn’t long before courtesy him his family can do away with the dhobi job for good. But I digress.

So Munna is having a good time washing clothes during the day and becoming mice killer by night. Enter Shai (Monica Dogra) – ‘gift’ in Persian. New York returned on a sabbatical, Shai is the ‘my Hindi is toota phoota types’ who have rich Dads building one masterpiece after another. It’s almost funny how absurdly stereotypical her character turns out to be. She declares her one night stand (with Arun Artist/Aamir Khan) a lot of fun and argues how ‘it wasn’t just about the sex (giggles)‘. He was special and so loving and you couldn’t put that all on mere alcohol after all. She finds the whole poor gang enthralling. It isn’t just the dhobis who get lucky but she actually goes around street hopping with Munna to pick up delightful frames from downtown Mumbai. The remaining time she sits about watching the rain and recounting the night of passion with the magic man.

Arun is meanwhile sitting about at home watching video tapes left by a former tenant. And I have to admit: this is the one track I actually enjoyed watching. Kirti Malhotra is perfect as the newlywed, homely Yasmin who wishes to send snippets of her life in Mumbai to young brother Imran. Anyway so our Arun decides she is the perfect muse for his new art work and begins putting random colours on canvas. Big bet after all, his Sydney show – arranged by lusty and ‘ever in the mood’ agent. (played by Kittu Gidwani) There’s a track about an ex-wife and kid thrown in somewhere and we are left to analyze if it was the divorce that made him such a recluse or if he  casually enjoyed putting up I-am-a-private-person expressions.

Strangely, a housemaid looking on as her daughter recites Tennyson’s ‘The Brook’ or Yasmin walking into the mist after visiting Elephanta caves are frames that stayed with me. Strange because it seems the film intended to dwell more on the pretended poignancy of Arun fidgeting around his wardrobe with classical music strands in the background. Or perhaps Munna’s relationship with an older lady he washed clothes for. The track of the old and silent neighbour who never spoke completely got on my nerves. I hear she denoted Mumbai and how the city is mute spectator to all that transpires behind walls. Brilliant if you can surmise as much but I doubt it had sensitivity enough for voracious-wafers-nibbler and candlelight-dinner-planner sitting next to me. Film festival material? Err, if you so insist.

The camera work is interesting. The initial frames depict a rainy Mumbai evening as seen from a moving car and yes, the hand-held camera has the desired effect. Likewise for a shot that shows Munna holding on to the sides of a bus with the streetlights in the background taking up a fairy land disguise. But you need more than good-looking frames to tug at heartstrings.

The conclusion seems to be simple. Rich girl can befriend the dhobi, the maali, the bhaaji wala. But she needs high-profile artist type to fall in love with. India may build skyscrapers, send space shuttles, win sports leagues. But foreign returned desis seek their nirvana in poverty and class differences.

Lessons I Learnt & Visceral Observations:

1. I need to go check out the Elephanta Caves asap.

2. I shouldn’t have been so judgmental about one of my schoolmates who was seeing a Mother Dairy vegetable seller. Had I only probed, I would have had a film by now. Sigh!

3. The next time I encounter a foreign returned cousin passing a careless remark or photographing the garbage dump in Okhla (New Delhi), they get a tight slap. I am Fed Up of India being patronized and feel all infused with a new rush of nationalism. Thanks Kiran!

4. I now know why some people look amused if I happen to ask in fun: so how many boys/girls have you dated? Sheesh, I still live in the Old World! The new in thing: “I just had this amazing one night stand with this absolutely fascinating stranger I met at the pub yesterday. He was so loving you know...” Wow, they say. Tell us all about it!

5. Victory E Square is the place to be. Its all-white exterior and cathedral-like looks can have you deceived it isn’t a theatre. Plus, I really can’t remember when was the last time I paid only 40 bucks for a large popcorn at the movies.

Oh well. I always say it’s the best to wash your own clothes. I soak them overnight in Surf Excel and make sure I have turned the leaky tap off as well as I can when I am done washing the next morning. I have no interest you see, in finding myself another artistically defective abode in Pune now that the one I have has become more or less a habit.

Dhobi-Ghat

About Deboshree

~D.B. The one who loves to cook up abstract stories about all and sundry.

23 responses »

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  5. Deboshree, i love the header and the format of ur blog. And seeing apni Dilli anywhere is such a delight!! a spicy blog u got girl!

    Since , i’ve seen this movie, so i chose to read this review…. hmm i quite enjoyed reading it…. but somehow i just loved that movie… and wrote about it on my blog.

    I liked ur to do list at the end of the post! quite a funny way of saying things!

    keep in touch

    RESTLESS

    Reply
    • Hello there Restless!

      Glad you enjoy the spice of Saddi Delhi. I agree – apni Dilli has an undeniable charm.
      Oops… :D It’s great knowing you enjoyed reading the piece though our opinion about the movie contrasts. I loved the visual appeal in some frames, like I said. Poetic it was.

      Ha ha… thanks a lot. Hope to see you around more often!

      Reply
  6. I thouroghly enjoyed reading it and the film really dissapoints me, couldnt find the arty thing in it, I have seen better movies which beautifully portrayed mumbai, like the yasmin track and prateek, Amir is repetitve ! (again painter which is unusal for him)
    and I totally agree with u abt NRI’s slum tourism, Danny boyle sells it and got an award (oscar!) and we claim it as oscar winning Indian movie.
    India cherished its richness (read antilla) and poverty (read dharavi) !

    Reply
    • Exactly Saffron. I have no clue what’s artsy about that movie. Handheld cameras and disconnected shots don’t constitute art cinema IMO.

      Yep the Yasmin track worked but Aamir seemed such a misfit to me that I failed to receive any impact from the movie when I came out of the theatre.

      Oh the Slumdog movie started a fresh wave of glorifying our country’s poverty. I have reached a point when I have a hard time appreciating anything that tells a tale with NRIs inspecting slums in the backdrop.

      Glad you enjoyed the read Saffron. :D

      Reply
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  8. I dont agree with your review, as i am one of the target audience, but i liked the writing style, & obviously your lessons learnt, observations.

    Reply
  9. i totally agree with your views on the film…aamir’s track is the only good one in the film,it is extremely sensitive and believable…it could happen to any one of us.Prateik i think is extremely talented,and i hope he lands with good roles henceforth too.Though the movie lacks intense moments,i think my main problem is the title.I think the only intention is to,yet again,highlight the low areas in mumbai…and that is so not appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hey :)
      Yes, Yasmin’s track is believable and certainly relatable. Prateik is good for sure and I never felt he was overplaying the character.
      I can understand your problem with the title. The same old (anti)glorification of how India still lives in poverty is so entirely beaten.
      Thanks for your time!

      Reply
  10. Nice review, But a disappointing film :)
    Interesting reading here ….Thanks

    Reply
  11. Even though, my view about Dhobi Ghat would have been, probably the opposite of what you have written; but I wouldn’t deny the fact that I enjoyed reading it all the same. If, I being an unbiased and indifferent reader perceived this post of yours, I would have said ‘Ah! It’s good.’, but that would strictly be from a reader’s point of view.

    Reply
    • Hi Sayak… welcome to my blog :)
      I am glad you enjoyed reading the post despite your contrasting opinion about the movie. Dhobi Ghat is certainly cinema that evokes discussion and argument and whatever be its merit, that goes to its credit. Oops that rhymed.

      Hope to see you around.

      Reply
  12. I enjoyed the movie. Like you said the camera work was superb. I too loved Yasmin, and found Prateik has inherited his parents’ acting genes. But I thought Shai was fine as an NRI, she didn’t understand (or respect) the caste, class and gender biases and rules (i.e. divides) and treated her maid and dhobi as equals. Prateik acted fabulously as a confused, shy, adolescent who can’t see what a woman who was warm and friendly could be, if not in love with a guy she spent so much time with.

    Reply
    • Thank you for dropping by!
      I couldn’t agree more about Prateik. If I liked him in Jaane Tu, I am glad that continues.
      Shai somehow eludes my empathy though: spending all her time with Munna and still spying on Arun, giving no response to her maid’s derision of her favourite dhobi,making no attempt to show concern for his emotions in the dealings. Perhaps I am just tired of NRIs shooting slums and slumdogs. :)

      Reply
  13. Superb review…. Very innovative…. :)

    Reply
  14. A brilliant review… better written than the film actually

    Reply

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