By Sadho Ram
Life is just life. It’s just as it is. Like a movie running on theatre. Both possess the distinct quality of being as they are – unique. While some are just lame, damn, wham bam and all that. Some have the ingredients, each single one, which makes them stand apart. Those, with ingredients to stand apart are like a celluloid celebration of vivaciousness building in between the momentary silences which is ought to go unnoticed for the reason that the viewers are too engrossed in chatters and fizzles. Life is just like that. Its goes, for the most part, unnoticed and at the end of it, the viewer, the one watching that particular life, complains that it never lead him/her anywhere. It has betrayed him/her and has left him/her with nothing worth the pain he/she took all through the time while watching it. And the final conclusion: It was just a waste of time… and money!
dhobi ghat (Mumbai Dairies) is one such life. It’s a blank canvas with vividly painted borders kept in some random corner of a long gone painter’s dilapidated house. To those looking at it with an restlessness of a man holding a little bucket full of water and his tummy, waiting outside the gate of public loo for his number, it will only give an impression of an irritating, vulgarised wall containing amateurish graphic details of private parts and of rage to break open that damn door.
In the similar manner, dhobi ghat, to those looking at it with an already a judgemental mind and concluded thought, it will only give the impression of random frames and very Kiran Rao’s inability to write and tell a story.
It’s an attempt to re-create life as it is but on celluloid frames, and it so does, implacably and impeccably. In a crowd full of herds thriving on mediocrity and mindlessness, Kiran Rao dared to stand apart if not alone and show the crowd of its own mediocre and mindless gibberish that it throws at each other and also gleefully accepts. Dhobi ghat straight away gives the impression that it does not matter to her that she would be condemned by them for trying to show what they see daily, of course, without bothering to take notice of it.
If I were to describe of my emotions while watching the film then I would be lying if don’t tell you of the little joys and of curiosity and empathy and of sudden loss of self that Yasmin experiences while filming the digital letters to be sent to her brother in a faraway village in UP. I would be lying if I don’t tell you the sense of amusement and of enlightenment coupled with unfelt emotions that were not available to Shai till she has not come to Mumbai on a paid sabbatical to get the perspective of city. And I would be utterly dishonest if I don’t accept all that Munna feels and thinks of Shai, while showing around her the localities and places and people that grows on her through him. The helpless desire of Munna to touch her while watching a film with her, the immensely burning fire inside him to kiss her irresistible lips while she lay asleep on the couch and the understanding of the life that he, Munna comes to realise and accept that he has to lead now.
But above all I would be untrue and this little piece in ode to dhobi ghat will be incomplete if I keep all that Arun, the reclusive painter living a life of a loner by choice as well as circumstances, goes through each frames shot in the mannerism of lifelike suddenness. His sense of awkwardness among the very people inside the gallery of his solo art exhibition, and the realisation of his own growing restlessness inside him in presence of the very person he just spent the entire night in drunken cuddling and kissing, and finally the sense of a life, complete and compelling, in the company of an absent Yasmin and her present digital letters which she had filmed for her brother.
It all came to me while watching this utter beauty named dhobi ghat, this muse called Mumbai dairies, this whore the inimitable Bombay of Kiran Rao, which she treats her with the utmost honesty otherwise ghastly missing from other so called true representatives of the city and its life.
Last words –
dhobi ghat will grow on me, inside me, with me as this city, this very Bombay has been growing in past 3 years, with the realisation that it won’t stop, that the feeling is mutual, and is without any bounding.