This could also have been called “Why multiplexes aren’t really the places you should go to watch and enjoy movies” but we’ll keep that for later. Meanwhile, here’s fresh from Dhobi Ghaat (Mumbai Diaries).
Once a couple of friends which also included me did a marathon session of movie watching at a Cinema Club. Being a late hour and, taxis being conspicuously absent from the streets we started walking. Which also resulted in a lot of snarky and sometimes interesting comments. One of them was that it wouldn’t be a decade from that day when the volume of “hatkey” movies would be such that the category of these movies would cease to exist. Watching Dhobi Ghaat brought that comment right into the foreground. Five years ago, there wouldn’t be financing to produce this movie. And, ten years ago, the audience wouldn’t have been around to accept this at a movie theatre.
The movie is languid, refreshing and, as many have remarked – inconclusive. Among other things that’s one of the nicest things about it. Happys the endings isn’t what movie making is about. The preparation around the movie begins when there’s the reasonably tight shot of a working taking a beedi-break against the backdrop of Mumbai – with the skyscrapers and the groundscrapers visible together. And, the slight yellow tinge of the sun tinting the clouds just that much. The wonderful and studied effort that goes into making a movie around this concept is on display throughout the frames and more or less in every frame – the smaller details about production pieces, the language and, the light. Of course, the fact that Bombay/Mumbai forms an integral ‘character’ in the movie itself is something that takes getting used to. The other part of course is that the characters and their motivations do not require lengthy build-ups and explanations – they ‘happen’. For example, Monica Dogra’s character roams around Mumbai with Prateik’s character Munna snapping pictures (oh ! how I wish that the DVD comes with the prints of them !) and thereafter gets into a luxury sedan to return to her surroundings. No explanation needed. That happens. Letting the audience ask themselves questions and, try to answer them is a good thing. As also putting them right inside the continuing lives of the characters – no cut-to-past or, no lengthy dream-about-future time wasters in this movie. The story behaves like the camera just sneaked into their lives and recorded. Even in the segments that include the video-letters.
There are subtle moments that are interesting. Aamir Khan’s slightly nervous neck muscle stiffness or, Kriti Malhotra’s upbeat voice being suddenly downcast and restricted hand-movements (the constant sound of her bangles stop). The crescendos of the music (and, the street noise increasing during the last scene) or, the slight sound effect of the rushing wind when the train goes past Prateik’s shanty or, even Tennyson’s Brook. It isn’t a single watch movie. The various aspects of the craft do come together (and, thus it generally means that hours have gone in making that happen) and this requires a DVD to re-watch. Aamir Khan is Aamir Khan – studied and nearly perfect. Monica Dogra is charming. Prateik Babbar is good because he picks up and runs with a role far removed from his mileau and does a pitch perfect job of it. Kriti Malhotra is probably going to be talked about because she lets her eyes talk a lot more than herself. That’s an excellent job.
I don’t really agree that the problem with the film is the lack of a story. I think the problem with the film is that it tries too hard to be excellent. And, that kills it in not letting have loose ends. The other part of course is the English/Hindi nature of the movie. I ended up, unfortunately enough, watching a Hindi only version. Whosoever wrote the Hindi dialogues (which are originally in English) for Monica Dogra’s character never really probably got the actor mouthing them before going to dubbing. Stitled and absurdly ill-placed with an accent that doesn’t stay at one place at all.
And now, we return to our regular multiplex rant.
I’ve often said that the multiplexes unleash the boors in us. Disposable income meets plush interiors and what you get is a group of folks who not only jar their own cinema experience (or, perhaps they enjoy that) but mess it up for others. Today it was a group who were absolutely interested in intimate scenes between Aamir and Monica. And, the lack of them on-screen as well as the subsequent (admittedly stilted conversation) led to quite absurdly trashy comments being passed around. Which continued each time their characters interacted or, even Prateik’s character interacted with Monica’s. And of course, the coarse and somewhat vulgar laughter that punctuated the nervous reaction of Aamir’s character when the full realization of the video-messages hit him. All this at a 1415 show at E-Square Kharadi which was around 40% full for a Aamir Khan movie does tell something.