Saturday, January 29, 2011

'Dhobi Ghat'.....

This appeared in Asian Age \ Deccan Chronicle today....


When the Spouse is not a Mouse…but Superman!

I watched this season’s most publicized movie, ‘Dhobi Ghat’ with enormous interest. Of course, when Aamir Khan is backing a film project, it goes without saying every conceivable media platform is thoroughly, systematically and totally carpet bombed. With his wife’s virgin effort as director-writer, Aamir spared not a single effort, stopping short of climbing up the Qutub Mahal and declaring his undying love for second wife, Kiran. Aamir could successfully teach courses at Harvard on how to market a product – he is that brilliant! But the more interesting aspect of this particular promotion was the cleverly calibrated positioning of Kiran Rao. This is where Aamir’s genius lies. As a debut movie, ‘Dhobi Ghat’ is respectable enough. But it certainly does not generate shock and awe , nor can it be considered a major breakthrough film that is a game changer ( ‘Dil Chhata Hai’ falls into that category). It is delicate and subtle in the familiar art house tradition, but not powerful enough to be touted as a cinematic coup for the first time director. The question to ask in all fairness is : Would ‘Dhobi Ghat’ have received as much attention had Kiran Rao not been Aamir Khan’s wife? The answer is a flat ‘no’. But, what the hell.What’s the point of being married to the most powerful man in Bollywood and not leverage the relationship? I hugely enjoyed the spin! All those cutsie stories about how she insisted on Aamir auditioning for the film…. I mean… we are talking AAMIR! Or, what a hard time she gave him on the sets by subjecting him to reverse discrimination. All these nuggets of modern day equations in a very contemporary marriage really tickled our imagination enough to go watch the film. And that, my dears, was the intention all along! I took in a few of their television interviews and read the print versions, just like thousands of others ( there was no escape from these two last fortnight) . The entire strategy was faultless – they held hands, referred to one another as ‘my love’, and trotted out the same spiel interview after interview, without once looking bored or jaded. Now that’s a feat! Finally, after watching the 95th interview ( same coy, adoring glances from Kiran, same self-deprecatory anecdotes from Aamir), I felt exhausted. But hey – let’s hand it to them – this is what is known as true professionalism. Each oft-repeated quote and recycled cliché sounded fresh, spontaneous and new! Hats off to the two of them for their dedication to the product. For, without that, ‘Dhobi Ghat’ would have been dismissed as yet another slightly confused, well intentioned movie. Aamir, perhaps anticipating just such a response, preempted criticism by informing those who weren’t going to ‘get it’, that the movie was not for everybody! It was a delicate and refined cinematic experience meant for those evolved, educated cineastes capable of appreciating his wife’s genius. If such condescension annoyed a few critics, Aamir was instantly condoned – he is Aamir, after all.
When I walked out of the multiplex after catching a late evening show, my daughters were sniffling away – they had fallen deeply in love with Prateik.Their emotions are entirely understandable. Prateik is adorable as Munna, the dhobi who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star someday. Casting Prateik was an inspired choice, and one must congratulate Kiran for not succumbing to spouse pressure and casting Aamir for this pivotal role ( according to the lovey dovey couple, Aamir was lusting after it). It is the characters of Munna and Shai( played with admirable finesse by Monica Dogra) that linger after the viewing, and leaves the audience somewhat relieved that Aamir’s Arun does not hijack the story, nor does Aamir the superstar hog the script. In fact, most viewers agreed that just about any unknown could have played Aamir’s part and there isn’t a single memorable scene that stays from his segment of the inter-linked narrative. One actually waits hungrily for Prateik to appear on the screen…and break our hearts. For me, it is pure sentimentality and nostalgia ( I knew and loved Prateik’s mother, the late Smita Patil). But beyond mush, it is evident to anybody how instinctive and inspiring Prateik is as an actor. There is nothing studied or ‘filmi’ about the boy. He is an absolute natural who projects an almost heart breaking level of innocence and vulnerability. Kiran has written Prateik’s role exceedingly well , devoid of even a single false note. Can’t say the same about Aamir’s Arun, who mouths the most ridiculous lines about Mumbai (“ My muse, my beloved, my whore…”). It is also pretty apparent that Aamir is not entirely comfortable speaking English and is far more himself when the dialogues are Hindi.
But beyond the movie and how it fares commercially lies a deeper message for women in cinema. There have been other successful directors like Aparna Sen and Kalpana Lajmi here, Mira Nair and Gurinder Chhadha overseas. The one thing that separates them from Kiran Rao is the Aamir Factor. These ladies did not have the backing and clout of a superstar-spouse…and that is the biggest difference. Today, Kiran is fully sorted as a film maker, regardless of how her first film performs at the box office. She can write her own ticket, name her price and effortlessly get the next project… and the next… off the ground. She may or may not sign her superstar husband next time ( she should go solo after the heavy duty togetherness of this project), but with or without Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao is officially on a roll. Good for Kiran. An intelligent spouse should never underestimate the power of two. Look at Hillary and Bill Clinton! In the movie business, it works in exactly the same way. If Angelina Jolie decides to turn director someday, she’d be seriously dumb not to get Brad Pitt involved…..and they are not even officially a couple. Frankly, Kiran Rao and Aamir occupy a pretty unique slot – I can’t think of another power couple in the movie world , who enjoy the same profile. Tom Cruise comes to mind, but Katie Holmes, his better half, is a glamourous actress, not a determined director . It would be interesting to monitor Kiran’s next move , rather, movie! This one had her cutie –husband declaring publicly that he had fallen in love with his wife one more time after reading her script. How will Aamir top that? Who knows? As they say in Bollywood, ‘Dil To Pagal Hai.’ Kiran sounds smart enough to check-mate her mate many times over. Perhaps that is the asli secret of their successful partnership?

27 comments:

cmpershad said...

` Prateik is adorable as Munna, the dhobi who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star someday... and one must congratulate Kiran for not succumbing to spouse pressure and casting Aamir for this pivotal role'

Dhobi ka kuttha ghar ka na ghat ka :)

NAT said...

Behind every successful Woman there is a Man....A good turn around?

Cheers!

Norman

Appu said...

Mein Toh Avi Avi Lut Gaya
Good na?

Vivek Nanda said...

I'm watching it tomorrow :)
Wait for my review

mihir said...

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goodluck said...

You just ignored Kirti Malhotra who received more praise than Prateik from critics. She is the unintentioned USP of this film. You have fallen into the trap of parising Smita's son while decrying or crying over the star connection of Kiran. Have some balance., lady.
Kiran is clever to make use of her husband for her movie and then making fun of him.

Anushree said...

Aamir's character in this movie is Arun...not Raju..!!

Subhajit said...

Aamir's character is 'Arun' not 'Raju' in the movie!

goodluck said...

This is awards season. Every award hosting requires 2 names to make it look grand and successful So they have to throw some bones in the form of awards to make these 2 appear. They are Amitabh and SRK. Thus stars who just dont go away receive lifetime awards and now Tribute award. Next day Bachchan writes how embarrased and humbled he was for receiving the award while his 250 fans express undiluted happiness for the greatest being on earth according to them. Next these inventive minds will give golden and platinum awards to make them grace their award functions. SRK has to get the best actor award whether he hams or over hams while Karan Johar fondly looks on. Statusque Rekha will come all dressed up like some overaged bride and act like a teeager with Hrithik, SRK etc. while Bachchan stoically looks on. Even Vidya has started behaving cheaply. Nowadays every invitee has started to look jaded and faded and these functions have become ritual. Same faces, same demeanour.
As for Dhobi Ghat, I felt the movie is just so so with some freshness thrown in. Men have to do so many things to keep the wife happy. It is a win win situation for both. Just how long this honeymoon will last?
Men are generally unhappy with their first wives. They become more understanding with their second or third one. They may feel that everytime they just cant throw tantrums and thus start behaving like school children after getting a second chance. Shall we pat these men?

Nilu said...

Loved your barely-there sarcasm in the post! Though I haven't seen the movie myself, I too have heard that Kiran Rao would've sunk into oblivion if not for her superstar hubby's glowing testimonial.

*Aham* said...

firstly, ahhh! been so long that i have visited this space of my favoritest blogdost. misshhhed you de... and sorry for not keeping in touch..


wowie...
with the aamir, every one is ameer!

but the kiran is not the one who will get shadowed like the rookhi sookhi climber...

this chashmish beauty is as fresh and free spirited as some jali-booti.

i like her plain jane image. she did not slip into a designer gown... may be it is her pati parmeshwar's strategy too.. but fir bhi... :)

even the way she came into aamir's life... like no mistress but a respectful wife...

there is never a dull moment with the aamir strategy that mostly hits bulls eye...

he is a welcome change to the TALL dark handsome cliche...

salute maar bollywood here comes the czar... Mistake him not to be frustrated ...as shortie with a yo-yo!

Latha said...

What about Sai Paranjpe ? She never had a Godfather, but could make v good films including the daring one, tell all film on the Mangaeshkars. She was also v successful as a serial director.
Another woman Aruna Raje, 'a one film success' made 'Shaque' in 1976 with Shabana Azmi & Vinod Khanna with hot hot scenes thrown in. As if that was not enough, there was an overdose of sex with Bindu swirling on the floor. How did you forget her ?

bibhash k jha said...

kiran is great director .. i must say

sarah said...

The movie fell in the same lines as Babel and 21 grams but Kiran made it her own. Kriti Malhotra is a star and Pratiek very charming, Amir was a complete misfit. Please stop commenting on Hollywood since you're clearly not very versed in the ins and outs it. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes a power couple? He is pretty much over, judging from the looks of his last few movies and how little the disaster Knights and Day fared at the box office and failed to impress the critics. I doubt MI4 will be redeeming him. Katie Holmes a glamorous actress? All that lady had in her bag before Cruise happened was a teen soap opera and bunch of forgettable movies. She only appears in magazines because of her pathetic imitation of Victoria B (Cruises and Beckhams are best friends) and for making her 4 year old wear heels and designer hand purses. The 'power couple' is a joke. FYI, Angelina is directing/writing a movie set in the Bosnian war and she was an oscar winning star way before Pitt came in the picture. She still continues to work the critics (A Mighty Heart, Good Shepard, Changeling) and the box office (Wanted) all without collaborating with Pitt. Whose the bigger star amongst them is up for debate, but she sure as heck doesn't need Pitt to make her directorial debut work. And just because they are not marrried doesn't mean they are not an 'official couple'.

Rakesh Patel said...

For more about Dhobighat: http://gitanshpatel.blogspot.com

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Mehr said...

Kiran was able to bag this Argentinian musician too for her movie-credit Aamir khan...without him she mightnt be able to do this...a luxury to her movie...
As u said Maam "The question to ask in all fairness is : Would ‘Dhobi Ghat’ have received as much attention had Kiran Rao not been Aamir Khan’s wife? The answer is a flat ‘no’....

Amarjeet Saluja said...

Watched it today. Liked it as its different. Work of Art. But still wondering how does color of Munna's shorts change when he is shown going to Arun's house first time.

๑۩۞۩๑ PUSHKARAJ ๑۩۞۩๑ पुष्कराज ๑۩۞۩๑ said...

ज्या थाळी मध्ये खायचं... तिकडेच घाण करायची ही यांची जुनी सवय....
अमीर खानचा नवीन चित्रपट 'dhobi ghat' यातला एक वाक्य मी टिपलं आहे ज्यात किती अपमान कारक वाक्य मराठी माणसाबद्दल आणि मुंबई बद्दल बोलली आहेत....
हा चित्रपट कधी निघाला माहित नाहीं... पण २ दिवसा अगोदर इंटरनेट वर पहिला...
चित्रपटाच्या सुरवातीलाच एवढी अपमान कारक वाक्य ऐकून मी हैराण झालो.....

वाक्य अशी आहेत...
"this is the tribute to the people of Rajastan, U.P., Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere. Who built the city in the hope that someday they will find a rightful pleasant. So to Bombay my muse, my whore, my beloved"

ह्या माणसानुसार राजस्तान, युपी, तमिळ नाडू, आंध्रप्रदेश आणि 'elsewhere' (महाराष्ट्रीय नाहीं) ह्यांनी मिळून मुंबई उभी केली. आणि ते असा विचार करतात की त्यांना मुंबईत कधी तरी समाधानाने जगायला मिळेल.
एवढा अपमानास्पद लिहायचं?? मराठी माणसाचा जराही हात भार नाहीं?? त्यांना जर समाधानाने जगायचे आहे तर आप आपल्या राज्यात राहायचं... त्या साठी मुंबई का निवडली...आणि एवढी वर्ष मराठी माणूस काय त्यांना कापत सुटला होता??

आणि दुसरा.... 'Bombay...my whore'
मुंबई वेश्या आहे...
इतके घाणेरडे शब्द वापरायचे... हे शब्द वापराचे आपल्या मुंबई बद्दल.... आणि कोणी काहीही बोलू नये....

नाहीतरी ह्या लोकांनी संपूर्ण भारत वर्षाची वाट लावायची घेतली आहे...
अफगाणिस्तान झालं...पाकिस्तान झालं...आता काश्मीर.

๑۩۞۩๑ PUSHKARAJ ๑۩۞۩๑ पुष्कराज ๑۩۞۩๑ said...

continued....

ह्या माणसाला...आणि ह्या सारखे बरेच...त्यात काहीं मराठी पण... त्यांना मराठी आणि मराठी माणसा बद्दल अनादराने बोलण्यात काय आनंद मिळतो...
किती सहज पणे आज जो उठतो तो मुंबई आणि मराठी विरुद्ध वाटेल ते बोलतो..

हा चित्रपट कोणत्याही मराठी माणसाने किंवा मनसे किंवा शिवसेनच्या कोणत्याही कार्यकर्त्याने पहिला नाहीं ??
का ह्या विरुद्ध आक्षेप नाहीं झाला??
कृपया हे थांबवण्यास मदत करा....होईल तितक्या लोकांना पाठवा...
कोणी ह्या चित्रपट बद्दल आक्षेप घेईल अश्या लोकांना पाठवा आणि त्यांना पाठींबा द्या....
मी ही करतो आहे...

धन्यवाद

ramakantyadav.com said...

This movie is a joke with huge political undertones. Thorough waste of time

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mubashir bukhari said...

i think dobbi ghat was a wonderful movie in terms of treatment given to it....i think this was a great effort frm kiran...the movie was too artistic to be understood by most of the indian audeinces...we hv audience who love yaamla pagaala dewwanna nt movies like guzarish and dobbi ghat...thats the sole reason these movies doesnt get much attention..

Rhett said...

I liked the movie - its nice - obviously not splendid but I think she does a good job...and these days good is scarce

Shankar said...

The movie was a total let down.

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