Dhobi Ghat/Bombay Diaries (2010)

05 Jan

Last evening I saw Dhobi Ghat at the local cinema hall. In the town I live, hardly any Hindi films are shown. Thus, I was very happy to see the bills of Dhobi Ghat on the cinema display board. I wasn’t expecting much, because the reviews had been mixed. When I entered the cinema hall last night there were five people including my freind and me. The fifth person it seems had just come there to sleep and stink. We sighed and moved one row ahead. The film began, the plot unfolded , the pictures came, it moved, it swept over the streets of Bombay, the sights, the smells (!), the colours, the hectic, the stillness, the monsoon, the music, the life. A poem, a song with a strong ending, but all the same a beautiful ending, very fulfilling!

The film is coming together of four stories, four lives. The common person to these three stories is Arun (Aamir Khan), a shy painter, who has just recuperated from the post-depression of a broken marriage. During the opening of an exhibition of his works, he meets Shia (Monica Dogra), a bank clerk based in NY in Bombay on a sabbatical. They end up in bed that night, but the morning after is not so beautiful as the evening that led to it. Unknowing to each other these two persons do have something in common and that is Munna (Prateik), the local Dhobi (washerman).

The disappointment and anger of being rejected boils over makes Shia lose her temper on Munna.
To make amends she befriends him. Seeing that she is a phographer, Munna asks if she would make good photos of him for his portfolio, for his big dream is to be a film star. She agrees on the terms that she is allowed to record his daily life in pictures.

Arun is moving to a new flat in one of the old districts of Bombay. A beautiful old flat with stained glass windows. Here he discovers some video cassettes from the former tenant of the flat by the name Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra). She has arrived in Bombay as a newly wed bride and it seems she had wanted to send these cassettes as a letter for her brother. We as viewers realise soon enough that the camera is her only friend and companion to whom she can trust her innermost feelings and thoughts.

Munna, who is getting so much attention for the first time in life falls in love with Shia. She in turn has still not overcome her feelings for Arun. He is getting involved deeper and deeper with Yasmin, through whose eyes he now sees Bombay and draws inspiration for his art. Four persons separated by different boundaries come together. Munna and Shia separated by class, Shia and Arun separated by temperament, Arun and Yasmin separated by time. They are all having a nice time with each other, but as viewers we know it cannot last for long, but just like the protagonists we prefer not to see the differences and just be in the now.

Great poetic film! I am still flooded by the pictures of the story. Suddenly a scene comes in the mind and unravels a hidden story. While walking through the streets a visual from the film rises before the eyes and explains a link between the stories. A real journey of discovery.

Yves at his blog has also written a review of the film in his unimitable style and picturesque words. He is right in the way that the way the story has been filmed is sort of new for Hindi film industry and has a quasi European stamp to it. I think it is completely harmonious for the narrative and it helps tell a story, which otherwise might have been shred apart by its explosiveness. Moreover Hindi cinema, like any other art medium, has always drawn inspiration from outside and which is/was conducive for its growth and present status. A river on its path to the ocean gains water from many streams and it takes along with it dirt, filth, soil and stones, which fertilises the life on the lower banks.

Major Spoilers Ahead

The part of the film, which shook me was the part when the four threads which wer woven together comes apart. The shocking part is Yasmin’s suicide note, which not only shakes us but also Arun, who after the break up with his wife has suddenly found an undemanding companionship. He falls down and runs away from his flat, but there is nobody who can offer him solace. He sees the old lady downstairs, who sits on her chair and stares in the air, alone and forsaken. Suddenly we realise the whole dimension of her tragic existence and so does Arun. He looks at her, begging for comfort and relief, but there is nothing, except dejection. He breaks down!

End of Spoilers

Go and watch the film, you will love it!


Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Bollywood


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

26 responses to “Dhobi Ghat/Bombay Diaries (2010)

  1. @v@ (@ava_chandigarh)

    January 5, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I have heard its a good film. Sigh.. I did not see it when it came out. Ab lagta hai kahin se laani padegi. Great review harv..

  2. harvey

    January 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you, Ava! It is always nice to see you being the first to comment.
    Watch it, I think you will like it, Ava! But don’t go with high expectations (foolish sentence, I know!).
    It is really a nice film. The two things which I think didn’t fit the film were Prateik’s beautiful T-Shirts and Yasmin saying “Better late than never” rather than “der aaye durusth aaye”.
    Such beautiful scenes, even when of poverty and dirt. It has this fine quality of giving dignity to the poor in their poverty and forgiving the rich for their affluence. The camera has a loving eye for every character without condemning them. At least I could relate to all of them and understand them.

  3. Anu Warrier

    January 6, 2012 at 2:12 am

    I have had this on my Netflix queue for so long! I think I should move it up. Thanks for the lovely write-up, harvey.

    • harveypam

      January 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

      Thank you, Anu!
      I am sure you will like it. The film has so many facets to it. It is wonderful to discover it. I am looking forward to your reaction after you watch the film.

  4. dustedoff

    January 6, 2012 at 6:41 am

    I never saw this when it was released, though most of the reviews I read were favourable… I think I should order the DVD sometime now. Sounds good!

  5. harveypam

    January 6, 2012 at 11:46 am

    You know it was a nice experience to watch a Hindi film in the theatres after a long time. The last Hindi film which I could watch in a cinema hall was 3 Idiots in Jan. 1910. And before that 6 years back Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam during a Guru Dutt retrospective here. The last Hindi film in a cinema hall in India before 3 Idiots was in June 1992! The film was Deewana with Rishi Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and Divya Bharati.
    Thus it was a nice change to see a Hindi/English film in a film theatre.

    The review, which I read was from rediff movies.
    You have a good taste in movies, so I am curious what you will be able to discover in it. In fact I am envious of everybody, who still has to see the movie, because they have the road to discovery in front of them.

    • dustedoff

      January 8, 2012 at 4:47 am

      The last Hindi film which I could watch in a cinema hall was 3 Idiots in Jan. 1910

      Do you mean 2010? πŸ˜‰

      Seriously, though, I guess it wouldn’t be really worth their while, screening too many new films. Is there enough of an audience (five people in a hall doesn’t sound like it…) to warrant a screening?

      • harvey

        January 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

        “Do you mean 2010? ;-)”

        Of course not, I meant 1910, the one by Dadasaheb Phalke! πŸ˜‰
        Thanks for the correction!

        The cinema halls, where the Indian films are shown are are art house film theatres, with seats barely for 80 people or so and they get subventions from the central and regional governments, thus they can tide over.
        Good for us!

  6. pacifist

    January 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I liked the film too, especially the Yasmin, Amir angle.
    I wasn’t much impressed by the NRI Dhobi angle, though all together it’s a nice film.

    I’ve been racking my brain for the name of an Indian film with several stories running parallel, but can’t remember.
    I’ll get back as soon as I can.

    • harveypam

      January 7, 2012 at 1:18 am

      Somehow in all the critics, Arun-Yasmin is given as the weak angle. I also felt just like you that the bonding between these two lonely people was strong. It had this voyeurism to it, but all the same. Voyeurism also is a part of Shia’s feelings towards Arun. We as viewers are as it is voyeurs of the whole story!

      Where you thinking of Life in a Metro (2007)? I haven’t seen it.

      • pacifist

        January 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm

        >Somehow in all the critics, Arun-Yasmin is given as the weak angle.

        Do you mean the ‘hindi film critics?’ They are the worst kind if there ever was. πŸ™‚

        Yes, ‘Life in a Metro’ and another one. These are 90s/2000 films and that’s why I can’t remember them.

        • Anu Warrier

          January 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm

          Salam-e-Ishq was another one with parallel story tracks.

          • harvey

            January 7, 2012 at 11:41 pm

            That is right. Salam-E-Ishq was also one of that kind. It started the whole trend, didn’t it?

        • harvey

          January 7, 2012 at 11:40 pm

          It is funny, at, I have hardly ever read a favourable critic. The film which the same critic criticises in one review, he/she would praise in the other, while comparing it with the new one.

  7. sunheriyaadein

    January 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    This sounds so good! I had no idea as to what the movie was about. I didn’t go for it when it released as I’m very selective when it comes to watching movies in theaters.
    But now I really want to watch it. Let me see if I can find it somewhere.

    There’ve been quite a few movies on parallel story tracks in the last few years like – Dus Kahaniya, Life in a Metro, Sirf…Life looks greener on the other side, Honeymoon Travel Pvt Ltd, I Am and so on

    • harvey

      January 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      I am sure, you will like it Archana!
      Do tell me how you liked it when you see it!
      People have been raving much about Ranbir in Rockstar, the last film which you reviewed on your blog. hope to see that soon.

      Wow, there surely have been lots of parallel story tracks in the last few years.

      • sunheriyaadein

        January 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm

        I would love to see it! Lekin kambakt waqt hi nahin milta, kya kare :’-(

        • harvey

          January 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm

          We should write a song Kambakht waqt…

          • sunheriyaadein

            January 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm

            There should have been a like option against comments too πŸ˜€

  8. Shilpi Bose

    January 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Well, well, well that was quite a nice review. The reviews in the newspapers here sort of left me cold. Your review piqued my interest, it is quite an unusual story, have to see, thankfully it is on you tube, when ‘kambakht’ time permits I will see it.

    • harveypam

      January 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      I am sure you will like it. It has many silent moments which speak volumes and everything is very subtle. Sort of Bimalda school, but of XXI century!
      If you are watching it on you tube, I hope you have a wide screen.
      Enjoy it, whenever kambakht time permits! πŸ™‚

      • Shilpi Bose

        January 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

        Yeah I have wide screen, will try to see it.

  9. yves

    January 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Hello Harvey,
    Does “kambakht” mean free?
    Thanks for your inclusion of my review and also for your communicative enthusiasm regarding Dhobi ghat, which I’m sure Mumbai inhabitants (or people more intimate with the city than I am) would certainly appreciate because of its special flavour.

    • harveypam

      January 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      Hi Yves!
      Kambakht means wretched. One uses it like one would say ‘damn’ in English.
      That is true about Bombay and its special flavour. But for me this could have played in any other city as well.
      And coming from a middle class family, the Bombay, which I know is rather the one, which Yasmin films than the one Kiran Rao depicts. The one I know is which Yasmin says is always in a hurry. There are many 70s films, which comes nearer to this picture of Bombay.


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