New Film 'Dhobi Ghat' Has Mumbaikars Buzzing

Poster art for Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat (2011).
Poster art for Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat (2011).

MUMBAI, February 11 - The local film community is buzzing about the recently released film Dhobi Ghat. The film, from first-time director Kiran Rao, wife of actor Aamir Khan (Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, who also stars in the film), examines the lives of four disparate individuals living in Mumbai by focusing on one particular neighborhood and the diversity of the characters that inhabit it.

Dhobi Ghat tackles the limitations of a city like Mumbai, where lives intersect but do not necessarily connect. The film tries to challenge this notion by bringing the characters together in intensely personal relationships that supersede socio-economic standing.

In a film culture dominated by shinily produced Bollywood cinema, this arthouse-style film reflects the reality of Mumbai without the sparkle of Bollywood numbers, without the slum-life depicted in Slumdog Millionaire. Rao attempts to paint Mumbai as a place of opportunity, isolation, and discovery.

Dhobi Ghat's wide release marks the beginning of a new cinematic exploration in India, or perhaps a return to the more socially conscious films of previous eras (one Indian reviewer compared it to Satyajit Ray's Charulata). It is an Indian film, made for Indians, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, which used an outsider's eye to tell the story of slum-life while maintaining the aspirational tones so closely associated with Bollywood.

Many have argued, however, that Dhobi Ghat's success is due to Rao's association with Aamir Khan (who both acted and produced the film). Nonetheless, Rao's credentials and unique voice speak for themselves, and she remains a director to be closely watched.

Related links:
Aamir Khan: Acting on Instinct