Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Four Strings of Pearls - Dhobi Ghat at BFI Film Festival London

There are many reasons why it feels right to start my blogging on Indian films with Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat:

First because it seems very adequate that my writing should start with a film that has a close connection to Aamir Khan. It is with him, back in 2001 when they showed Lagaan in Swiss cinemas, that my addiction for Hindi Films began. And my admiration for him as an actor and filmmaker has it's fair share in keeping my interest alive over all those years. But don't get me wrong, Dhobi Ghat is not an Aamir Khan film. It is very much a product of the mind, brain and heart of Kiran Rao and almost all the credit for what I loved in this film goes to her. But nonetheless he produced it, acts in it and was smart enough to marry the girl! So it still feels very much like a film close to his heart.

Second it's to say thanks to a fine co-blogger and friend who watched Dhobi Ghat at the premiere in Toronto who's wonderful review made me get my globetrotter act together and move my butt to London. As usual, she was spot on in her analysis when she told me that it would be totally worth it and that I was going to love every minute of it.

Third, - and this should actually be first- , because I totally fell in love with this sensitive little film. Sorry for calling it little, but it has a delicate and intricate quality to it that makes it feel almost intimate. In the best sense of the word. It is as if the director handles you a handful of precious pearls. You just want to sit and study their various colours, textures and some are reflecting a little Mumbai moments that you just love to spin on in your imagination.
They are tied into strings of the story lines of the four main protagonists: Arun, the introvert painter, so sensitive to the vibrations of a place, but at a loss in dealing with people; Shai, the NRI on a sabbatical in Mumbai discovering the city through her camera; Munna, the Dhobi dreaming of escaping the drudgery of his two "dirty" jobs into a career as a Bollywood hero and Yasemin, the country girl freshly married into the big city. Their strings intertwine and form three carefully balanced love stories. But I don't like to tell more about their stories here. The enjoyment lies in the way Kiran makes you experience them along with the characters.

And even though I saw the film just three days ago I'm already impatient to see it again, so I can have a closer look at some fleeting moments that I could only just notice in the first viewing. I'd like to explore the way Kiran lets architecture, streets and rooms tell their own part of the story. This alone would be reason enough for me to love the film. Finally a director letting the charismatic old houses of Bombay have a voice of their own. I stayed barely two weeks in Mumbai, but this film so reflects my experience of what is the character of the city beyond the famous sights.

Let's say a word or two about the casting: Both the girls fit their characters very well and make you like them quite a bit. But there is no comparison with how Prateik can charm the audience. His character is probably also the most interesting to emphasize with, but there is no denying that he is a very gifted actor with a very unusual but powerful charisma. It was amazing to feel how the whole packed cinema was sighing, laughing and holding their breath with him. There is a rare, shy quality to his performance that I sincerely hope success and Bollywood won't spoil.

But, charming, handsome and likable as he may be, my knees went all wobbly for the other guy! Ahhh, Kiran, thank you for letting Aamir weazle his way into your cast! What a treat for the fan! Mind you, his is a very quiet, internal story, but that gives him just more scope to act in subtle ways. The shy, intense artist type with an edge is just what makes this fangirl's heart happy. It doesn't hurt either that this is one of the most sensual roles he ever had. Not in any sleazy way. But watching him lovingly spread paint on a canvas has a physical beauty in itself. And when he squeezes bubble foil I was almost cheering loudly.

But fangirl excesses aside, Dhobi Ghat is a marvelously well crafted movie. I don't know how the Indian public will react to it. There is so much that defies the stereotypes of Indian cinema and a lot is left open for the viewer to complete on his own. But on the other hand, I like to think that today there is a mature audience open for this richly layered movie experience. At least everybody who truly loves Mumbai should appreciate this. I wish both Kiran and Aamir all the best for this release and hope that this gem finds many more lovers!


  1. And of course I have to comment here too, because I can never keep my mouth shut even in the most quiet emotional moments (such as the one above). Lovely review! And thank you for that delightful image of the pearls, I'll remember it whenever I think of Dhobi Ghat.

    So... Now you get to join me in the nervous drumming of fingers and tapping of foot until Dhobi Ghat releases to the world and we can finally talk about all the little things we loved in it without fearing we will spoil some of the magic for the others. But then you do a lot better with Godot's bench than me... I'm still working on that virtue... :-/

    I really hope (and have faith) that everyone will see Dhobi Ghat exactly like we saw it and that they will love it without reservations, like we did. So cheers to that! (And to your new blog!)

    PS: So happy you went to London, but I take none of the credit you generously give me for it: you know you would have gone anyway! :D

  2. I haven't seen the film yet but your review makes me want to watch it. Right now. This very moment.


  3. Clap Clap to your first Blog entry and then with such a great review. Now I am even more sad that I can´t see it in the cinema

  4. Unfortunatelly i'll have to wait for the release to be able to see it, but you and Dolce made me really curious.. i know i'll love it, as i love anything Aamir is on :)

  5. Your review is spot on - went to the Sunday showing in London and felt about it almost exactly the same about it.

  6. Kudos PkG, love your first "Hindi cinema" Blog entry!!

    Don't know if I will be able to master the patience, I can't wait to see Dhobi Ghat for myself!


  7. Congratulations PkG,

    Great title, picture and very well written first blog. I loved the fangirl part ;-), can't help it! You go girl,

    Love Sonia

  8. Hi PKG. Read your review, loved your imagery of four strings of pearls.Can't wait to watch the film, watch Mumbai reveal herself, the youngster Prateik who intrigued me in his debut Jaane Tu,watch my dfavourite Hindi actor dig into a different sort of role---ahhh, Jan 21 is 3 whole months away.


  9. Hi PKG.
    I hope you don't see any harm in what I read your review on Dhobi Ghat. I love good writing and couldn't resist. Without saying too much, you said just enough to stir our curiosity further. Very good review! Thank you!


  10. Thanks, dear blog friends, for all your encouraging feedback! :-)
    The hardest thing was not to tell you those lovely little moments that pleased me so much. Because you will enjoy them so much more when you can experience them first hand. And you'll know it was worth all the waiting when you get to see it. And if you're anything like me, you'll want to see it over and over again. Patience, my friends!

    Dolce and Namak
    Of course most of the credit goes to you! Your absolutely brilliant review gave me just the right kick so I could convince myself that I just had to do that London trip although I had just been on a holiday two weeks before,... but of course part of the credit goes also to a lovely gem who managed to get one of those very rare tickets for me! :-)

  11. PKG

    It is a pleasure to write a comment on YOUR BLOG! Very well-written review and one that I am sure will make Kiran Rao very happy. DG seems to be just what I expected from Kiran. I cannot wait to experience these intimate love stories. I liked the image of pearls. I am also curious to see Aamir in his most sensual role.


  12. PKG - One more thing: I like the Blog's picture banner. So how about a review of TRZ to go with the banner?


  13. Hallo PkG

    Wow, what a great review on Dhobi Ghat!
    It was a real pleasure to read these lines...
    I had to breathe in deeply after absorbing your words and I felt that strange kind of joy of anticipation and impatience. I try to imagine, if your words can make me so happy, than what would happen when I´m watching the movie???

    Thank you


  14. Thanks a ton for this invaluable piece on a delicately made movie. With this you have allayed all my fears and bolstered my faith in Aamir the MAVERICK. Your views echo the the inherent sentiments of true Aamir fan,of which i am a pride member. But you have also made us more impatience with your views and i envy you for experiencing this little gem ahead of us!

  15. PkG,
    your blog starts just the way I expected it would. You've got your own special 'STYLE' ;) and you convey it wonderfully. Congratz!

    It will take ages to be able to watch this movie in a worthwhile manner, but we have Godot's bench and a lot of wonderful company sitting on it. :)

    Good luck for your blog writing adventure!

    Love, Filme

  16. Wow!

    I'm now more and more eager to watch Dhobi Ghaat than I was before reading your review.

    If I say that your review has delighted me to the extent that I'm already in love with the feeling, which I know I'm bound to experience after watching the movie, would basically be an understatement, but then forgive me for it, because I don't know how else to express it in more better way for such an "intimate" review.

  17. scatty
    Hi! :-)
    Well, I'm not yet sure how I'm going to choose the films write about here. Probably just random whenever I feel I want to say something about it. And they're hopefully not all going to be AK films. ;-)

    Thank you! :-)

    Patience. :-)
    You know, we fans from Continental Europe have to go through this feeling for every single film! With our dear Mr. Slow Motion at work we usually wait about half a year till we can see a film that you guys have been talking about for months. So for once I was lucky and grabbed my chance.

    Sadhgopal Ram
    Now you really made me nervous! ;-) I know too high expectations can sometimes kill a movie experience. Just go and watch the film with an open heart and mind. And please, tell me how you liked it afterwards! :-)

    Thanks for the support, guys! Much appreciated!
    PkG! :-)

  18. Beautifully written. I too attended the screening of Dhobi Ghat at the London Film Festival. Wrote a piece on it too - http://passionforcinema.com/dhobi-ghat-movie-review-the-line-that-connects-the-dots/
    Would really appreciate your thoughts on it. I absolutely adored your style of writing, so evocative :)

  19. Arjun
    This is so sweet! While you were commenting on my blog, I was writing on yours! : )
    And thanks for your generous words. I really enjoyed reading your impressions too. very good analysis. And intriguing to see where our experiences were the same and where they differed.

  20. Gauri Radha गौरी राधा15 November 2010 at 03:27

    Lovely post and review Mountain Rose!! Looking forward to the film.

    And Best wishes for your blog :D

  21. Hi PKG!

    This is Nasrin from the blog:-) just read your fantastic review for dhobi ghaat. and i have to say that i really liked it..have not seen the film yet due to no release here in my country..but reading your review makes me feel that i want to go and see the film as soon as possible!!i am sure that the film is great like your review...thanks for sharing...very well done :-)