Dhobi Ghat: Better than Bollywood, a film about truth

Published: January 25, 2011

Aamir Khan has done a commendable job.

Kiran Rao’s debut venture, Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries), is well written and artistically executed. For fans of regular Bollywood masala movies the movie has little to offer. The movie has no songs at all, and does not have a very captivating background score.

But if you are interested in alternative cinema you will find the film spellbinding.

A few years ago, when Slumdog Millionaire, became a runaway hit, a lot of people around the world got a glimpse of the harsh, dog-eat-dog world Mumbai that is. Dhobi Ghat also provides a glimpse in to the underbelly of the city, but instead of dwelling on it’s ugliness it embraces the city’s people.

While watching the film one feels like an artist or a photographer on a quest for purity, uncovering many stories along the way. We see regular people in a city of dreams living their lives, facing challenges and portraying the many shades of human existence.

The screenplay is well-written and performances are believable. The dialogue is natural and convincing.

Aamir Khan plays a reclusive artist and has done a commendable job. His expressions capture the agony of someone who has many emotions running through his head (one of my favourite scenes is when Khan finishes viewing video tapes he finds in his apartment and realizes he has fallen in love with the woman who has made them). Actress Monica Dogra is impressive and blends into the story well. Prateik Babbar plays someone caught in the crazy life of the big city.

As an audience we see touching stories and get a real tour of the city. We hear the songs of the crowd as they try to cope with the daily challenge of making ends meet.

The movie is worth a watch on a calm Sunday afternoon, as it requires undivided attention. I hope it earns some awards as it is definitely deserves them!


D. Asghar

A mortgage-banker by profession who also loves to write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • D. Asghar

    Dear Friends,

    Before I get a barrage of comments pertaining to this, I would like to clarify this comment in the blog:

    (one of my favourite scenes is when Khan finished viewing video tapes he finds in his apartment and realizes he has fallen in love with the woman who has made them).

    It is perhaps the Tribune desk’s editing, my comment here was:

    When Aamir is done with his viewing of the third and final tape and something just dawns on him. (I was not trying to give the story away, so I left it at that)

    Of course Aamir never falls in love with Yaasmin. At least that was my understanding of the movie…Recommend

  • Awais

    I have no idea why a few people in our society live under the veil of artifice. I am a strong believer of taking life and the things in it in a realistic manner and for their face-value. Unfortunately, this ruse of ours is leading us to a pint where people would simply start negating the reality on its face. As a human being we all are prone to do good and bad things, sometimes we indulge in our fantasies so deep that we end up misjudging the real worth of things. The same has happened with this movie of Amir Khan’s. The guy has been known to be a perfectionist when it comes to movies and film-making and especially in the selection of topics to work on, but when it comes to making errs i’d say we all misintercept some stuff sometimes and that is nothing but natural.
    The central idea of the whole debate that i just made is simply, Dhobi Ghat is not a type of movie people expect from a person like Amir Khan, people are looking for central ideas and solid grounds and bold gestures when it comes to Amir Khan’s cinema, and thats not just a few among his fans, its what most of the people thought after watching the movie (I wouldn’t even call it a movie), may be a documentary on Life in Mumbai or something?? Well, who knows.. so what we need to do is accept the reality that the guy messed up with his ideas and couldn’t give us a quality time this round and keep our calms instead of claiming that we got into the utter understanding of the whole movie.

    Come on People! Its time we start facing the reality..

    P.s. The movie may do some good business because more and more people go to watch an Amir Khan movie then the normal audience which would boost the business in the beginning but at the end of the day what will emerge from the cinema would be some really disappointed fans.Recommend

  • http://billaytoot.wordpress.com Bilal

    I liked the movie….Recommend

  • Rajat

    Kriti Malhotra the actress who played the role of Yasmin Noor was fantastic. Without giving away spoilers, the last tape to her brother was unsettling, throwing me into a funk. Aamir Khan’s role as Arun the painter was quite pedestrian. Prateek Babbar did a fine job as Munna the dhobi. Monica Dogra’s role as Shai was superfluous and quite irritating. Overall I feel that Kiran Rao has brought the melancholy of life in Mumbai rather beautifully, but in terms of character development, it left me begging for more. Recommend

  • http://na prasad

    I wish reviewers would compare the movie to other similar movies – perhaps a benegal or Ray film – that would help put matters into perspective. In any case, I will be watching the movie today – I need something to forget my last outing to the cinema hall to watch…Dabangg.Recommend

  • parvez

    I saw it first day, first show at the Defence Ciniplex. and thought it was time and money well spent. I liked every aspect of the movie especially the direction, the cinematography and
    Prateik Babbar the dhobi who I feel out does Amir Khan.
    There were a total of four people in the cinema hall apart from my wife and I and on coming out I asked the young couple how they liked the movie and they said is was a flop, there was no story, no dance, no song and I could only smile and go my way. Recommend

  • http://pk.linkedin.com/in/babarjaved Babar Khan Javed

    Movie was incredible, I enjoyed it. Better than the masala flicks, I’m glad india is embracing art filmsRecommend

  • Humanity


    Expecting a creation comparable to Ray’s is to have ultra high standards. No Indian movie that I have seen comes close to Ray’s masterpieces.

    I have not seen the movie, but just wanted to understand the quality of the yard stick, that Asghar Bhai and readers have in mind.Recommend

  • http://billaytoot.wordpress.com Bilal

    India has very nice low budget movies….Watch AMAL of naseeruddin shah…its a nice movie..Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/ask-super-sis/ Aisha Khan – Relationship

    Its not a good movie. It is boring. Sometimes Aamir khan can produce a movie which is not worth watching!!Recommend

  • http://na prasad

    Loved the movie. As a mumbaikar who has not been to the city for 10 years, it was like meeting a favourite aunty and feeling guilty that you had not kept in touch. Kiran Rao’s writing is impeccable – at no point did I feel the need for any song or dance sequence.

    Money and time well spent. There are so many layers that we kept talking and debating well after the movie was over. Dont go if you want typical Bollywood. Aamir Khan is restrained to the point of looking pedestrian – but he allows the city and other characters to blossom – thank god he acted in the movie – otherwise it would not have seen the light of day. Recommend

  • MyohMy

    I hate avearage masala Bollywood films. I would love to watch this film as it appears different from ‘Sheela ki jawani’Recommend

  • http://www.romaisachoudhry.com Romi

    I loved the movie, Although it isn’t the usual emotional sort of movies Amir khan has made in the past; it is something different. I loved the concept and originality of it!Recommend

  • Maheen Rahman

    Hey, I watched it after reading your review and I must say it was totally worth it. Recommend