LIGHTS. CAMERA. ACTION! Welcome to the review-blog of an Indian pichchar aficionado!

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)

Actors: Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogre, Kriti Malhotra
Genre: Drama
Rating: 4/5

They say the dhobi knows everyone’s secrets because he’s the one washing all dirty linen! In this film, a dhobi forms the nexus between two main characters in the story, why “Dhobi Ghat”. Sorta. How about a Dhobi Ghat where clothes from all over the city congregate, like a city where many lives meet, affect a change, and get affected as well – all four characters? Sounds like the right metaphor. Also presenting the fifth character, Mumbai! In new and non-Bollywood light. The four main characters: Munna (Prateik Babbar), a dhobi, Arun (Aamir Khan), a painter, a loner, Shai (Monica Dogra), a semi-pro photographer on a vacation in Mumbai, Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a recently-married girl, new to Mumbai. 

How Munna connects the dots, how the four characters evolve and sporadically intersect, infatuations and revelations developed, is the pith. Dhobi Ghat is unconventional, non-dramatic, and runs heavily on feelings - subtle and not an emotional dump. If emotions form the meat of the story, progression of the plot is the soul. I would rather hold my horses by not divulging the plot details penned by Kiran Rao, and let you affirm after watching.

Prateik Babbar as Munna is the ‘hero’ of DG. No feats really, except radiating talent, nice and bright, while a parallel story was being chaperoned by a luminary like none other than Aamir Khan. Prateik has played the role of a slum-dweller to the hilt. Be it lifestyle, Mumbai slang, embarrassments while confronting the urbane, low-brow humour, and most importantly his relationship with the chic Shai (Monica), all relatable. Modestly built as a shy character, how he slowly gains a friend in Shai, develops a crush, evokes emotion in her by just being around is exemplary. Moving on, Aamir Khan is a rare actor who can hold his own strongly in a bevy of strong characterizations (Eg. Andaz Apna Apna, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, etc). Arun is not the cynosure of the film, yet Aamir intelligently uses his screen-time tantamount to others’, to limn out intensity, hollowness, guilt, curiosity, voyeur, disquiet, embarrassment, pedestrian emotions, yet making them appear fresh and bewitching. Much unto himself, Arun does not indulge in soliloquies but Aamir manages to use his expressions and screen-presence well coupled with a dynamic screenplay to help out. In just two adjectives, Aamir as Arun is indispensable and storybook-like.

Monica Dogra as Shai is a type of character the younger Indian audiences may be familiar with. Super-convincing as a US-based ‘NRI’ with a *thing* for all things Indian (mostly the downtrodden), speaking Hindi peppered with an Americanized accent, Monica as Shai is commendable. Shai’s character had two main attributes - pursue photography as a serious hobby, build camaraderie with Munna, and Monica is remindful of a character some of us may probably know in our own lives. A character much defined by Munna’s world, Monica could have done a better job of alluring attention, but that’s just my interpretation of Shai. Next, Kriti Malhotra plays Yasmin, a shy, newly-married girl who is excited about sharing the ongoings with her folks back home. Yasmin is perhaps a peripheral element of DG, but how Yasmin and Arun form a bond in the movie is not everyone’s guess, and is one of the most beautifully thought-out portions. Largely though, Yasmin’s character helps change the mood of the movie eventually.

That debutante Director Kiran Rao may be under the tutelage of a film institution like Aamir Khan may have had something to do with the final product, is fast-food opinion. Agreed Aamir Khan is a perfectionist but his body of work up until now, treatment of plot in any of his movies, photography and screenplay have been significantly mainstream. With DG, Kiran has clearly brought about a new flavour for each of aforementioned talent. Beyond doubt. Taking an ‘artsy’ plot, a slice of life concept (in Kiran’s own words), orthodox and the mundane, to tell a story by conjoining lives loosely by a thread of emotions, thus making the latter the star of the movie – this itself is Kiran’s greatest contribution to DG. While, something of a taboo yet the very common human attribute of voyeurism is given limelight, is also common to the four characters. The direction of the story was largely dependent on how each character peels each layer off of them, to analogize unwarrantedly, like an onion – building four characters all in 100 minutes of runtime! Kiran has made sure that when one story was turning a new page, the other did too parallelly, maintaining the overall feel. Nothing about DG is over the top, Kiran makes your imagination run wild, letting you draw conclusions at times. In this context of letting you make your own interpretation, there are no loopholes one can really look for.

Screenplay by Kiran seems slightly under-paced, because seen from a cinematic POV, the film is documentary-ish and does not lollop headily towards a definitive climax. But there is a turn of events, and characters change course. Using the facial expressions, locations, and background music to generate a mood for a frame to delicately reveal a character’s many colours, could have been Kiran’s prerogative, why the screenplay was probably downplayed. Visuals like Arun’s silent and old lady neighbor, Shai’s maid brining chai for Munna in a steel tumbler and for Shai in a porcelain cup, a shy Marathi middle-class lady being videoed Yasmin, etc are some tenuous examples to keep it real yet corroborative. Cinematography by Tushar Kanti Ray is insightful, profound, and to me, game-changing. This, by simply using commonplace visuals that most of us are familiar with, to set the mood for a scene or to re-assure that everything’s within bounds of the everyday. Examples mentioned few sentences ago may give you a better idea. Most of the shots are rich with detail; add great conviction to the film’s rustic feel. All in all, the cinematography gleams bright at you, waiting to be interpreted.

Gustavo Santaolalla provides the musical retreat. The background tunes are intense, range from Oscar Lopez-like Spanish guitar solos to Hindustani Classical music to Jazz and such other contemporary forms. The background music forms an integral part of DG, adding to the narration (substituting at times!), taking the viewer through highs and lows of emotion. Overall, it has urban feel, is very worldspace-like and is much different from regular Bollywood.

Why 4/5:
This film will most certainly polarize the audience – you will either like it or you won’t, no middle ground. Simply because of its innate non-commercial yet global feel, Dhobi Ghat will be approved much more easily by cerebral and the reasoning than the paisa-vasool enthusiasts. While everything else gets a positive rating – Direction, Performances, Cinematography, Background Music and Screenplay; factors like documentary style of filming with quite a focus on the ordinary, nothing over the top, no cliché, and no definitive milestone to achieve through the story and its esoteric nature may seem to go against (certain) viewers. There are no logical loopholes, except would have personally loved to see some more facets added to Shai and Yasmin. Go watch if you like soft films, or purely to check out Mumbai that hasn’t been showcased so far.

Anaganaga O Dheerudu

Actors: Siddharth, Shruti Haasan, Lakshmi Manchu, Baby Harshita
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure 
Rating: 3/5

Just a day before the day I watched this movie, I was furiously ranting how Telugu cinema is losing its charm for typecast content and delivery. You can read it here. I did enter the movie hall to watch "AOD", rather skeptically. I knew all along that Disney was a stakeholder, and my hopes had been high, even though. Now, I am not going ballistic when I say AOD has pushed the envelope a considerable distance! The envelope had a message for me: to take down my post on the other blog, Tollywood had arrived! At a time when Bollywood is promising a visual extravaganza with a Ra.One, something Kollywood already fortified through an Edhiran, AOD stands tall as a beacon of hope for Tollywood’s decorous future.

AOD works within realms of a model Disney fairytale. A warrior, his lover, a (vulnerable) child with magical powers, and an evil witch all come together to tell a tale 
written by Choudekar Haricharan, replete with magic, action, mystery, drama. And how can I miss, the real star of the movie are some surprisingly cool visuals. Most of you can already picture the movie start-to-end, but suffice it to say that the impressive visuals need to be experienced to qualify, or to discuss. You’ve not seen it until you’ve seen it!

Siddharth as the blind Yodha seems to have tried really hard to fit the character. While he certainly displays his forte playing loverboy, he does fall short a bit in action sequences. His attire and body language doesn't help him become macho on-screen. For a Disney adventure full of impossible stunts, how some or most of them were managed minus visual effects are anyone’s guess – ropes and such. He doesn’t look as lean; I suspect the metal armour may have had a role to play. Siddharth’s Telugu diction has been improving consistently and he does well with archaic Telugu with lengthy dialogue too. His best (after romance) is the subtlety with which he played blind. All in all, Yodha is certainly not the center of attention of AOD. Shruti Haasan as the damsel in distress has had little to contribute from a story-momentum perspective. Armed with many seductive glances, Priya is conceived with many nuances of romancing Yodha mostly, gradually moving to the sidelines. While her dancing ability is commendable, her discomfort facing the camera (directly) is clearly visible

Lakshmi Manchu as evil Irendri is the surprise package of AOD. With little experience in front of the camera (India and abroad), Lakshmi as Irendri is perfect to the T. Quite possibly due to Irendri’s character being etched so well or simply owing to Lakshmi’s talents, the two are inseparable. The eccentricities of an evil character, a full spectrum of emotions – happiness, sadness, wickedness, arrogance, anger are in full view during Irendri’s screentime. Baby Harshita as Moksha forms the centerpiece of AOD keeping all story-elements together at all time. Moksha’s attire or characterization is very ordinary, and Baby Harshita’s performance does not stand out. But more importantly, Harshita’s confidence in front of the camera is worth noticing. 

With Director Prakash Rao in tow, AOD caters to a wide audience base (young, old, urban, mass, and families too). Maintaining the feel of a magnum opus from Disney, a tale of adventure backed by musical grandeur and superlative graphics may just match most of your expectations. The story has few unwanted contours, possibly to showcase graphical expertise, but nothing over the top to bore you out. With not many loopholes to plug (given the nature of the plot and everything goes), the treatment has been grand for the most part except that the focus was much on graphics than building strong characterizations (except Irendri’s).  Screenplay by Prakash too must have been a challenge, since there was an added element of visual effects to enhance each frame; decisions like using good imagery versus eye-popping images, etc. Prakash's imagination of delicate details is just one form of testament to his creative talents. If I were to have it my way for Prakash do just one thing better, it’s the climax. Will let you watch and agree

Cinematography by Soundar Rajan. The camera angles were particularly important for AOD, be it indoors or outdoors, a beach or a forest, a mountain or fort, a large durbar set or an intimate bedroom – the visuals have a lot of detail, many, many design patterns, effigies, piquant colours, and most importantly, expressions (esp of Lakshmi Manchu). The outdoor locales have a vanilla feel in comparison with indoor sets, etc which could have been improved. Visual effects have been done by an award-winning studio, Firefly, with a repertoire of great work behind them. Serpentine-themed thrill sequences, weird-looking flying creatures, stunts, magic and much more. Woven intricately using detailed graphic designs, artsy sets, ethic clothing, and more importantly good make-up, this section is easily the star of this film, without which a concept like AOD could not be pulled off.


M. M. Keeravani
Salim-SulaimanKotiMickey J Meyer have provided a harmonic support just as grandiose as the movie itself. A couple of romantic numbers lead the pack with the theme music underscoring most of the movie. The background score and the theme by Salim - Sulaiman is really a treat and helps solidify the mood and intent of every scene. Just like in other Disney movies, whether walking through a cave escaping from the enemies, a mischief being played, Yodha trying to charm Deepa, or an evil Irendri plotting her next wicked move, Salim – Sulaiman’s soundtrack only make our perception richer, almost making you witness the happenings for real. 

Why 3/5: 
Plusses: Great visual effects, background musical score, album music, good performances, cinematography and art direction, Siddharth’s charming ways, and Lakshmi Manchu’s performance.
 Crests and troughs in the quality of visuals (inconsistency), poor characterizations (look and feel, depth), story momentum, Siddharth doesn’t fully qualify as an action hero.

All in all, AOD is a fairytale that has been told a zillion times, yet gets you glued simply because of the nitty-gritty if not the grandeur.

Sunny said so.. has moved!

May I request you check out this review collection and more at
this new location?
Related Posts with Thumbnails
© 2011 Sunny said so... Movie reviews by Sandeep Srinivasan. All rights, lefts and centers reserved. Theme by EZwpthemes