Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dhobi Ghat - lights, camera, reality!

Last week we went for Dhobi Ghat, Kiran Rao's debut directorial baby, despite the not so encouraging reviews. For me, the one hour and forty minutes was spent well, enwrapped in a poetic meaningfulness. What could be more rewarding than watching four real people, made of the same blood and flesh as mine, battling the whims of a big bad world in search of a life? And not once did it feel like I was there for Aamir Khan. Not this time.

Yasmin, in her quest for happiness, introduces us to Bombay - the crowd; the incessant rains; the fast paced individualistic life; and finally the sea, that omniscient secret-keeper. In an eloquent narrative shift, these regular details of the city blend in and get lost in Yasmin's existential angst. Trapped in a lonely and loveless marriage, her only way of escape from reality are the videos that she records as letters for her kid brother.
Arun, an upscale artist who takes up Yasmin's old flat, discovers her video letters and some rusty keepsakes in a dusty corner of an almirah. Curious, he begins watching these videos with a regularity that can be compared to one's cup of morning tea. Divorced and reclusive, her naivety unhinges him in a haunting way, so much so that he wears her trinkets as one would wear one's faith. He is drawn into Yasmin's little world and begins emptying her essence onto his canvas in colours of hope. It is only when he watches her last video, a suicide letter, he is jolted out of the reverie.

Shai, an investment banker from New York stumbles her way into Bombay for some soul searching through her camera lens. She meets Arun at one of his exhibitions which culminates in an unexpected impulsive night. Time passes but Shai is unable to forget the moment and longs for the enigmatic artist. In such desperate times, she turns to Munna, the shy dhobi who aspires to become an actor. Together, they explore the city - he as her guide and she as his portfolio photographer.
Munna gradually falls in love with his Amriki mem, although he knows of her fixation with Arun. Worse, he knows the improbability of his own dreams. Besides the matters of heart, his closest friend, the only sense of family he has ever known, is murdered in a gang war which leaves him disillusioned with the "big city". He realises Bombay, with all its money and glamour, is heartless. Only lifeless skyscrapers can thrive in its cold bosom. Surely, this is not the place for fragile human hopes.

Dhobi Ghat is an experience, a myriad of emotions, a lyrical portrait of reality. How far can one push oneself for that tiny flickering ray of happiness? It tries to answer this one question that has been throbbing inside every man's heart and mind. And it will continue to do so forever.

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