Dhobi Ghat and the art of storytelling



 I watched Dhobi Ghat last night at a theatre in Chennai. Before I narrate how much I enjoyed the movie, a little background information. I paid 50 bucks for the ticket. It was a mini theatre filled with whistling freaks yet to reach puberty. Keeping in mind the artistic finesse in which the movie was made, we got a running commentary from the esteemed audience for the entire hour and a half. I suppose each guy paid the other to laugh at their mediocre heckles. Enough said.

The beauty of artistic cinema lies in its multiple interpretations and to each his own. I have already blogged about art’s beauty in abstraction and its ability to seduce us into believing its perfect interpretation. So, here is my understanding of the movie and what I loved, and understood.

Note: Read this only if you have watched the movie.

To start with, DG’s idea is to expostulate about certain core human emotions. Aamir’s (Arun) and Monica’s (Shai) characters speak about how they desperately want something they know they cant get. This desperation is further exacerbated when we try, in vain. This passion and craving to get something or somebody, lasts only till we are aware of its impossibility. The moment we are satisfied with its attainment, it loses its prominence.

My uncle used to explain how it meant the world to get a new shirt from his parents once in a year. It was the most special and memorable part of his day. But as the process repeats itself and you have the choice of getting a shirt with your own money, the joy of getting a new shirt loses its value and importance.
Simply put, the fact that we know certain things are beyond our reach, but we keep trying hard to get it is what gives us true satisfaction. This barring the fact that we ultimately may not get what we worked hard enough for. When Monica knows she cant get Aamir, it is what keeps her ticking and excited about the ways in which she can woo Aamir. Similarly, Aamir wants Yasin because he knows he cant get her and this bridge makes him excited and keeps him happy. If he did have to meet Yasin, the beauty of it is lost. And I am thankful that the director doesn't make the two characters meet till the end of the film, leaving it open for interpretation. 

Many times, there is nothing more satisfying than wanting something you know is beyond reach. Prateik’s character knows that he can’t have a relationship with Monica because of the divide in riches and class. But, he learns to let go of his desperation when he gives Monica Aamirs’ address. Prateik also fulfills a favourite quote of mine from the book My name is Red, written by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. One of his characters says, “If a lovers’ face stays emblazoned in your heart, the world is still yours.” Prateik finds solace in what is unattainable and he learns to let go of his deepest desires. Though in my interpretation I feel Monica knows that Prateik likes her, in the end of the movie when she is moved to tears, does she start liking Prateik? Tough to say, because her idea of love should be understood in a western sense and can always recur. 

Apart from this, the movie also has pleasant visuals, subtle portrayals of class (ex: when the servant maid gets coffee in 2 different glasses for Monica and Prateik) and the chain of command in the circle of life.

For me Dhobi Ghat is a beautiful play with human emotions and how this sense of the unattainable keeps us ticking. After all, if everything in the world is achievable and is yours and you have a perfect life without mistakes, you’re not living right.

(There’s a lot more to dissect and understand in the movie and what the director wanted to convey, Yasin’s character speaks volumes about her difficulties adjusting with married life) It’s a movie that is interpretable in many ways and requires a patient sitting with sane people celebrating the power of visuals. I would also like to add, Aamir Khan should never have been in this movie. It loses the gloss of what a new face can portray. But had not Aamir been there, the movie would never have had the appeal it has, nor would have cinema goers flocked the theater to watch the film. 

Do watch it again! 

1 comment:

Trishma said...

One of better aesthetic movies with an abstract plot India has seen. I wish we had more cinema like this! Your review is keenly felt, Adi, you need to keep giving us more! :)