Movie Review: DHOBI GHAT (MUMBAI DIARIES) (2011)

Published by Shah Shahid on

Once in a while comes a film that tends to break free of patterns established prior to it. Be it in the story or narration, some films stand out from the rest in the terms of overall storytelling. Such a film comes in the form of the third film I’ve watched released in 2011… DHOBI GHAT – MUMBAI DIARIES.

Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars

Played by Pratiek Babbar, the role of the boy who works at the Dhobi Ghat (outdoor Laundromat) is probably the same circumstances that most uneducated youth of the city have to live in reality. Like I said before, there’s no crazy histrionics on screen, but Pratiek’s performance is subtle and doesn’t even rely on too many words to get his emotions and feelings across. Through pure chance, he meets Monica Dogra’s investment banker character, and they start up a fierce friendship. The boy acting as guide while she gallivants around the streets with him doing her shutterbug act.

Despite her time with Pratiek’s character, she pines for Aamir Khan’s intense yet awkward artist. There’s really no synopsis of the film that I could give without revealing what happens in the film itself. There is no beginning-middle-end to this story; it’s a glimpse in the lives of some as they go through certain experiences. That’s really it. At the same time, the film is completely engaging and relentless on its hold on the viewer, all the way to the ending.

In terms of technical proficiency, Kiran Rao does an excellent job of making the film not look polished or commercial. The story isn’t meant to begin and end in the traditional sense, and she’s done an excellent job at that sort of segmented storytelling. I was also blown away by her ability to convey a kind of perpetual existence of the city of Mumbai, considering that the city acts as more than a backdrop during the entire film. The stationary long shots, amazing old school background score, the transition sequences of Mumbai city, along with still picture montages really enhance the level of storytelling that’s build around the city as much as the characters. During the media hype, they peddled the whole shtick of ‘the city is its own character in our film’ and I scoffed at that. However, after watching this film, you really do get a sense of the setting and how it takes over everything happening in the story itself. The aerial shots of the characters in crowded gullys (alleys) or footpath shops are truly amazing, but purposely underwhelmed.

The biggest effect of this city scape storytelling comes from another character in the film, that’s not actually in the film at all. Kriti Malhotra plays that married girl I mentioned in the opening, and throughout the film we get to see her home video, and that’s where the city and its people are highlighted the most. Her storyline is directly connected to Aamir Khan’s character, but the less said about that in this review, the better. This isn’t Aamir Khan’s film from an acting perspective, his is almost a supporting character, not to say that his arc doesn’t have the most effect and isn’t the most intense.

DHOBI GHAT is a great watch and a truly groundbreaking film. It never once lets you move away from the story it’s telling and the pacing is absolutely wonderful for a film that’s mostly talk (you know… the thing I hate, usually.) It’s probably the best film of the year… so far.

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Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


Bollywood Film Review: AARAKSHAN – 2011 « Blank Page Beatdown · February 13, 2012 at 2:39 PM

[…] awesome character is Pratiek’s, who was last seen in DHOBI GHAT. He does an awesome job as a middle class majority Indian who gets denied entrance into college, […]

Bollywood Film Review: AARAKSHAN - 2011 : Blank Page Beatdown · July 10, 2013 at 3:08 PM

[…] awesome character is Pratiek’s, who was last seen in DHOBI GHAT. He does an awesome job as a middle class majority Indian who gets denied entrance into college, […]

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