Film Review: Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) – Part Two

“You are watching it again? Why?” was the question I was faced with when I made plans to see Dhobi Ghat on the day of release. To be fair, my friend had a point as there are a number of other films I want to see at the moment but with a free weekend ahead of me, I still wanted to see Dhobi Ghat first. If you’ve read my first review of Dhobi Ghat (you can read it here), you’ll see that I wanted to see if my original thoughts changed after seeing the film back at the London Film Festival in October 2010.

Normally, once I’ve seen the film, unless it is truly exceptional, the next time I will see it would either be on DVD or when it is telecast – namely long after the dust has settled. However, now I had an opportunity to see the film as it went on general release and my inner Bollywood geek (who is very demanding these days!) simply could not miss this opportunity. So it was on a cold January morning that I made my way to the first day, first show, feeling more than pleased with myself and ready to see how the film fared after a second viewing…

First off, I was very happy that there was no interval in the general release – it helps the film flow very well and also allows one to give optimum concentration to the film. Knowing what to expect, this time, I found the film even more enjoyable than the first time I saw it. It seemed far more polished and compact than I remembered and the sound, which I talked about in Part One of my review, was flawless, no different from any other film I had seen and perfectly audible.

So what stood out for me on the second viewing? First off how the characters use technology in the film. Arun uses the video camera to interact with Yasmin and to view her tapes and then interprets what he sees creatively on canvas; Shai has her camera which fascinates Munna and she uses not only to document what is going on around her but also to spy on Arun. Yasmin uses the video camera as a novice at first but it fast becomes her confidante and the only way she can express herself which adds another dimension to her pathos. Munna may not know about technology but as a dhobi (washerman), he knows how to make sure the right garment reaches the right person and knows how to get clothes clean (note Shai’s wine stained blouse). Secondly, I noticed religious references a lot more the second time – Yasmin talks about Bakra Eid and Salim and Munna discuss breaking their fasts – we also have Yasmin attend the Ganesh Chaturthi with her maid’s daughter as she explores Mumbai. Interestingly, I don’t think Arun or Shai make any religious references,  acting as a foil to the religious characters and perhaps reflecting how secularity and religion co-exist alongside one another in Mumbai.

Performance wise, I still love Prateik’s performance – there were so many mannerisms and nuances that I missed first time – for instance, when he finds out Salim dies or when he gives Shai Arun’s new address even though it breaks his heart to do so. I really hope his performance is at least acknowledged  in nominations if not actual awards when this film comes up for awards. I really liked Kriti second time too and felt the sincerity she played her role with was excellent. Also, I felt she had the most challenging role delivering monologues (though she does have some interaction scenes which I forgot about in my first review but she is as good in these moments as well as on her own) and even though I knew what was going to happen to her character, I still felt the impact was as strong as the first time. I loved Monica Dogra’s performance and noticed it was subtle and suitably awkward  – a world away from the masala film NRI. Finally, on my first viewing, I felt Aamir was the nucleus of the film but that was because I was perhaps focusing on him a little too much – he is actually very much part of the ensemble and doesn’t overshadow or take away from anyone and adds another feather to an already full cap.

All in all, I really liked Dhobi Ghat second time around and would highly recommend it to everyone. The people sat in front of me seemed a little perplexed when the film ended and said: “That’s it?”. Yes, that was “it” and “it” is a wonderful step forward for Hindi cinema.This is something different and will not be to everyone’s taste and  I’m not saying that every film now has to be like this but it is wonderful that in one month, we can have films like No One Killed Jessica, Yamla Pagla Deewana and Dhobi Ghat and that a piece of world cinema has a place in the commercial Hindi film circut. This is also a film I would happily recommend to those new to Hindi cinema and be quite proud to recommend too – so proud, I reviewed it twice!

All pictures courtesy of http://www.glamsham.com

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