The trailer of Aamir Khan Productions' DELHI BELLY which precedes DHOBI GHAT, has Amitabh Bachchan in his baritone speaking about how, right from LAGAAN, the production house has been coming up with different and meaningful cinema. There are no two ways about that. Be it LAGAAN, TAARE ZAMEEN PAR, JAANE TU YA JAANE NA or PEEPLI LIVE, all were very different from each other, and were able to connect with the audience. The stint of making different films surely continues with DHOBI GHAT.
Aamir Khan had made it very clear in his interviews that the film is far from a typical Bollywood entertainer. He was even skeptical if people would like such a film. After watching the film, we surely concur!
The film traces the lives of four individuals living in the vibrant city of Mumbai. Shai (Monica Dogra), an investment banker on a sabbatical meets artist Arun (Aamir Khan) in his exhibition and the two get involved in a one-night stand. The next morning, Arun has guilt pangs for his actions. He blames it on drinking too much making a hurt Shai leave untimely.
Shai meets dhobi Munna (Prateik Babbar) and the two soon share a weird relationship. She shoots a portfolio for Munna, who's also a wannabe actor. They are soon seen watching films together and having a good time. Munna has feelings for her, but she is ignorant about the same.
In the new flat that he has shifted to, Arun discovers some belongings left behind by a previous tenant, which includes a video diary. Being intrigued and fascinated by the woman (Yasmin played by Kriti Malhotra) in the video, he starts painting a series of pictures of what he comprehends.
The rest of the film showcases how certain incidents have an everlasting imprint on their lives.
There's nothing wrong in making an unconventional film, but it has to be entertaining. Sadly, Kiran's script is a let down. Devoid of engaging moments, it feels like watching a documentary. Although not downright boring, the narrative is agonisingly slow, leaving you disgruntled. The film is all of 95 minutes, but it seems much longer. Also, all the characters except Yasmin's seem superficial and don't strike a chord.
It's not that it's completely unwatchable. Yasmin's track draws you in and is indeed very captivating. Some shocking scenes in the climax are poignant. But they are certainly not enough.
Technically, the film is a masterpiece. Kiran Rao showcases Mumbai in a new light. The camera angles, busy streets and festive fervour of the pulsating city, are efficiently showcased on celluloid. The background score by Gustavo Santaolalla [BROKEBACK MOUTAIN, BABEL] is truly beautiful. Tushar Kanti Ray's cinematography is top class. Nishant Radhakrishnan's editing could've been polished. Prateik is pretty good in his dhobi act. He never goes overboard in his act. Aamir Khan is decent. The two debutants, Monica Dogra (lead singer of band Shaa'ir + Func) and Kriti Malhotra (costume designer) shine in their respective roles. They are certainly talents to watch out for.
DHOBI GHAT is surely a different and brave step in Indian cinema; but not exactly a pleasing one.