Posted: 23 January 2011 at 2:07pm | IP Logged
There are four characters in Dhobi Ghat around whom the story revolves -
Munna (The Dhobi interested in becoming an actor)
Shai (An Investment banker from New York, who has come to Mumbai on a sabbatical and is into photography)
Arun (A divorcee, reticent, melancholic, heavily smoking painter)
Yasmin (A newly wed from a conservative Muslim family)
The story in short -
Arun is checking out a new place to rent. The neighbored is lower middle class, the house is in need of paint, the kitchen is small, and there is a broken ceiling fan, but Arun being quirky decides to take the place nevertheless as it doesn't have any lease associated with it and the rent is dirt cheap. Arun and Shai meet at one of his painting presentations. They click instantly, get drunk and make out that night. The morning after, brings regrets for Arun - but Shai is moved by the experience. Arun confesses and Shai being mighty pissed, leaves him in a huff. Shai becomes obsessed with Arun and keeps tabs on him. In the meantime, Shai runs into a Dhobi (laundryman) who also serves Arun. Almost immediately Shai becomes interested in the Dhobi and becomes pals with him. She coaxes him into allowing her to click his pictures, real-time at work, in return for making a profile for him to pass on to the producers. She traverses the nooks and crannies (read extremely kinky places) of Mumbai to capture images of people engrossed in various day-to-day tasks. Half of the movie is about how their friendship develops and how Munna develops a massive crush on her. The other half of the movie resolves around Arun and Yasmin. Arun is incidentally renting the same place that Yasmin's family has recently vacated. He runs into some highly personal tapes abandoned by Yasmin. His curiosity gets better of him and he starts watching the tapes. The video tapes are made by a naive newlywed newcomer to Mumbai, named Yasmin. She has made the video tapes for her brother, Imran. Why the tapes don't reach her brother is left mysterious. To a large extent they depict her journey in Mumbai beginning with awe, moving on to the day-to-day state of affairs after the newness sinks in. Overall Yasmin is shown to be an extremely cheerful girl who takes life with a pinch of salt. Arun becomes obsessed with the tapes. He suddenly becomes happier and so do his paintings. On one side we see Shai and Munna exploring the not-so-fascinating aspects of Mumbai and on the other we see Yasmin's journey through the tapes and Arun's change in attitude. Shai constantly hints to Munna that she likes Arun, but Munna brushes her off. Munna and Shai become very friendly with each other.Things get complicated when Shai wants to move on from Dhobis, Jewelers, Incense Makers, and other small scale industry workers to rat killers hired by the municipal corporations. Munna is incidentally a rat killer at night. When Shai sees him killing rats in the infested areas at night, she is surprised, but Munna who harbors a soft spot for her, is embarrassed at the lowliness of his job. He flees from the scene. His best friend (a petty drug peddler) gets killed that very night due to a fight between two gangs. Munna goes underground with his best friend's mom (whom his treats like his own mother) and also his friend's younger brother, to protect them from the goons. Shai meanwhile is desolate, looking for him. On the other side, Arun watches the last tape where Yasmin realizes that her husband is having an affair with a prostitute. Yasmin's cheerful spirit breaks down. After the last tape is played, Arun gets upset and restless. His eyes casually travel to the broken ceiling fan. He realizes with shock and horror what might have happened. We see Arun imagining Yasmin hanging herself to the ceiling fan. The suicide is neither directly mentioned nor shown on the tape, but is implied by the finality of Yasmin last message to her brother. Arun breaks down and decides to change his apartment immediately. On the other side, once again we see Shai finally meeting Munna. Munna discloses to her what happened to his best friend and why he had to lay down low. Shai asks him if he knows where Arun was as he was Arun's Dhobi as well. Munna says he might have gone back to his wife. He bids her farewell and lets her drive off in her car. Later on he runs back to the car and stops her - only to hand over a piece of paper Arun's new address. Shai drives off with tears in her eyes, crumbling the paper in the hand.
My doubts -
1) What is an investment banker from New York doing with a camera in her hand at the shady locations of Mumbai, past midnight without any fear for her life?
2) How did she become such a prolific photographer in the first place? The premise looks quite half-baked ...
3) How did she befriend a Dhobi to SUCH an extent so as to treat him like an equal, go to movies with him, give him a ride, have drinks with him, chat with him like an old friend and be in a compromising situation with him? It doesn't go that far ... but Shai's behavior is unconvincing of an investment banker from New York ...
The reviews said it was cinematic excellence. To me it was a waste of my
time. To me, the ONLY credible story in this messy quadrangle was
Yasmin's... and even that they left it open-ended ... I was waiting for something to happen, but it never did ...