Murzbaan Shroff, the writer based in Mumbai would be mightily pleased that the first story in his book BREATHLESS IN BOMBAY also is the name of the directorial debut of Kiran Rao, named as DHOBI GHAT. As Shroff has underlined in the story, DHOBI GHAT, is one of the biggest melting pots of cultural extravaganza in a city called Bombay aka Mumbai where the dirty linen is washed in the public and then packed and consigned to its original owners. DHOBI GHAT is also a microcosm of what city of Mumbai is all about, a platform where the caste and class identities subsume into each other once it picks up the cloth to beat it on the stone slab.
After a long-long time, the architectural fa?ade of South Mumbai, which is seen to be believed, has been made a part of the narrative to tell the world how architecturally as well, Mumbai is richly endowed. Scores of movies have been made using Mumbai as the backdrop, but the fa?ades that have been depicted through these movies either have been incorporated in the cinematic oeuvre through the studio creations or are the famous landmarks like Gateway of India, Marine Drive, Taj?s Lands end etc., all. But for DHOBI GHAT Kiran Rao has traversed into the underbelly of the city and has shot the movie in real locations. It would probably be the first film, which depicts famous Bhendi Bazaar in its actuality. As a matter of fact whole of South Mumbai has been given a new interpretation by Kiran Rao through DHOBI GHAT, and DHOBI GHAT could give a new character to the city of Mumbai.
Cinema after all is a narrative about characters, and what better way to develop a character than use the city as a metaphor, as Kiran Rao claims to have done for Mumbai through DHOBI GHAT. After all, Mumbai is a city having a character of its own, and it keeps on evolving and may be the time has come to use the cities like Mumbai and Delhi as a character in the cinema and explore their evolution through other live characters in cinema. New directors like Kiran Rao seem to be setting the tone with DHOBI GHAT, and with Arwind Adiga of THE WHITE TIGER fame and Booker Prize winner also releasing his new book LAST MAN IN THE TOWER centered on Mumbai, it could be an interesting combination on offer. It could also spur more writers and filmmakers to use the backdrop of their cities and interpret it in a new way, as Kiran Rao is trying to do with DHOBI GHAT.