Dhobi Ghat--a well known place in Mumbai. The Dhobis--washers--work in the open washing the clothes of their customers in Mumbai--hotels, hospitals, and others. There are over 700 ghats(washing stations)--I think I read somewhere that it was build during the mid-, late 19th century for the English military officers. The ghats are rented, and these folks launder, with out electricity, everything from undergarments to saris.
Why am I giving you a history of the Dhobi Ghat, and not a review of Kiran Rao's new movie?
Well, knowing about the Ghat is helpful for the movie--as well as much of the story revolve around Munna--the dhobi that ties all the main characters together.
Kiran Rao--who is married to Aamir Khan(though the New York Times review called him Mr. Kiran Rao!)--directed this, her first movie. I am sure having as powerful a husband as Aamir, made her job a bit easier--though I have seen/read an interview with her that she did not originally want her husband in the film. Well, even though he is the biggest star in the film, I feel he is not the biggest character--he pulls together 3 very different people.
Munna-the dhobi--also ties many of the characters together as well--he is the invisible person in Mumbai as well as the movie. Munna is one of the many millions of 'serving' people in this huge city--they bring laundry, lunch, cooking gas, milk, and many other necessities of of modern life to those living in Mumbai. I have also been reading Maximum City, Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehtu. This tale of a man returning to Mumbai with his wife and family from New York City, somehow mirrors this movie by Kiran Rao--you see the underbelly of Mumbai; the dirty streets, the trash dumps, the slums, the dhobi, the falling down buildings built so close to each other that you can peer into your neighbor's kitchen!
Rao brings you into the more real Mumbai--she films not the sparkly studios, but the streets--the beach, the festivals (she filmed the Ganesha Chaturthi when millions of worshipers bring large and small images of Ganesha to the ocean to be cast into the sea-my dream is to one day be in Mumbai for this festival).
This movie may not be for everyone--but it is a very wonderful look at the city that weaves dreams for millions of people all over the world. As I sat their in the theatre with my friend, we marveled at the wonder of Mumbai--but also commented on how dirty it was.
I had hoped that the video diary that Arun had found would have brought us to finding the maker of these tapes--these tapes, filled first with hope, and then with despair--made me weep for the new bride whose dreams were soon dashed.
I encourage you to see this movie--it is a very different film, the background music is melancholy and brooding--but so is the movie. This film gives you a realistic, hopeful view of the Bollywood city of dreams---Mumbai.