Movie Review: Dhobi Ghat

It's been a while since a movie made me miss India, but this one did.  In Kiran Rao's 2010 directorial debut, the lives of four people intersect across class and caste.  An artist, a photographer, a new housewife and a dhobiwalla, along with those close to them or those that serve them, come within each other's orbit in Mumbai for the space of a few months.  Arun (Aamir Khan) and Shai (Monica Dogra) are both artists obsessed with uncovering the beauty in the city and people around them.  The film's elegant cinematography is a perfect complement to their artistic processes.  Yet the film reveals a voyeurism inherent in both their personalities and their work.  Shai unhesitatingly pursues Munna (Prateik Babbar as perhaps the hunkiest dhobiwalla ever) to get access to the photography subjects she's interested in.  Arun unquestioningly makes the tapes he found in his new apartment, made by Yasmin Noor (Kriti Malhotra), the centerpiece of his art.  He watches and paints as Yasmin's story unfolds.

Munna and Shai
Yet it's Munna and Yasmin's stories that drive the film's narrative forward.  It is their lives, lived within the constraints of their roles and positions, that create the subject matter Arun and Shai are capturing. Both Munna and Yasmin sense tantalizing opportunities and new freedoms before them, possibilities that might lift them beyond the places they were born and the expectations attached to them.  Yet both face the limits of reality in individual ways.  The last scene of the movie, with Munna weaving through Mumbai traffic on foot (I won't reveal why), is a true revelation of a romantic Bollywood hero.  Yet I'm left with the question of what's more real:  the artist who recognizes and records the reality, making it accessible and approachable to others, or the people who live the ordinary lives of millions, creating their subject matter.

A beautiful, symmetrical, and touching view of four lonely individuals looking for human connection and meaning in Mumbai.