After watching Dhobi Ghat today, I ventured onto the film’s IMDB page. One of the questions on the discussion forums was “What change are you expecting in Bollywood after watching Dhobi Ghat?” After a sprinkle of answers saying that people are now switching from mindless comedies to serious films came an answer, by a user ‘colour-me-kubrick’, so short and so positively cynical.
And that is exactly what I feel about the film too. Not that I’m saying it is bad. It is, indeed, a well-made film, and a montage of stories well-portrayed. But if you expect any major changes to take place among Bollywood producers or directors or in the viewing patterns of the general public, then we can only keep on hoping.
But to talk about the after-effects of such a film would be to take away from this film. Some films can bring about a change; a revolution too (case in point Aamir Khan’s earlier Rang De Basanti) but Dhobi Ghat is not that film. It is a film that will affect you, more so if you are a Bombayite (Mumbaikar, if you prefer!) The characters in this film are believable, not like those just handpicked out of one’s cloud of imagination and put onto the drawing board.
You believe that a character like Munna (played by Prateik) exists. You’ve probably heard the class-difference love story many times before, but you don’t mind it again. Munna captivates you. You wonder how many boats this boy has got his legs into? Dhobi. Rat-killer. Guide. Wannabe actor. ‘Extra services’ free of cost. And yet he is likable because we too have so many different roles in our day-to-day lives. Roles taken up by the left hand that the right hand is not aware of.
Shai (played by Monica Dogra), the returning Indian from abroad. Why? To take some time off. To connect with her roots. We’ve seen such a character before and yet we don’t mind it. She is looking for love, for friendship: a relationship. But she’s confused. Aren’t we?
The painter Arun (played by Aamir Khan) comes across as a rather stereotypical caricature of an artist. He doesn’t want to be in serious relationships, has mood swings, says stuff like “Mumbai, my muse, my whore, my beloved city”, obsesses about a girl whom he doesn’t even know. We’ve seen such an artist before. And yet we know what it is to have a muse. To be obsessed with someone we know we will never meet.
Yasmeen (played by Kriti Malhotra) is the wife who has been married off against her wishes and brought to the city. She finds out that her husband’s business trips are actually dates with a mistress. She commits suicide. We’ve seen such a character before. And yet what she does differently is that she makes a video documentary of sorts capturing the different sights of Bombay which eventually becomes the crux of this film.
Bombay is the fifth character in the film. The torrential rain, the unending traffic noise, the relentless chugging-by of trains, the piercing silence in the subways or at night: all of this form our four earlier characters into what they eventually become. But Bombay remains unchanged.
The cinematography by Tushar Ray Kanti is terrific. The background score by Gustavo Santaolalla is not your typical Bollywood score. It provides support to the scenes, though I wish we had a little more of it. The acting is top-notch, except for Aamir Khan who doesn’t seem at ease at all in his role as the artist. Surprising.
Sometime ago, Aamir Khan said that Dhobi Ghat was an intelligent film; his exact words were, “I fear that masses may not like Dhobi Ghat because it is a very fine and delicate film. People who understand film, people who are sensitive - this film is for them. This is not a mainstream film.”
I agree that Dhobi Ghat is a fine film. I agree that it is delicate. But I think Aamir should have let the judgment of whether a film is good or not be left upon the public. Agreed that this is not a mainstream film, and that as ‘colour-me-kubrick’ mentioned, “Nothing” will change. But we can hope. Isn’t that what the film tells us as well?
Written by Runcil Rebello.
“To one generation, Bose meant the freedom struggle. To another it was audio speakers. I shudder to think of the next. #delhibelly” – So went a tweet by journalist Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity) on Twitter. Now people have every right to say what they feel. Twitter is, after all, exactly that. A place for people to tell the world (that is, if said world is following them) their every whim, fancy, and, most importantly, rant.
Anyway, I digress.
The reason I write this post today is because Mr. Deekay Bose has managed what the femme fatales Munni and Sheila couldn’t. Bhaag DK Bose from Delhi Belly has polarised listeners. Some find it plain catchy; another song to listen to while travelling. Few find it to be inspired: by Green Day’s music. A large number of people hate it for its sheer audacity to hide a famous North Indian cuss word within an addictive tune, as well as lyrics where a father defames and discourages his own son.
“Daddy mujhse bola, tu galti hain meri.” / “Daddy once told me, that I’m his mistake.”
The people who hate Bhaag DK Bose are vociferous about it, while those who love it, well, they just love it. After all, what’s not there to love in it? MW (@menakasays) says on Twitter that it is “addictive. And energetic. And lively and did I mention addictive?” Zena Yarde, a student just out of college, feels that it has innovative lyrics. I agree. So did Dev.D’s Emoshanal Atyachaar which slyly inserted a ‘whore’ and ‘bitch’ into the lyrics.
But no one carried out a morcha then. Then why target DK Bose? Notice, most of the people targeting this song are people who have well reached past their thirties now. The youth of today, on the other hand, enjoy Eminem passing cuss words at the speed of rapper’s light in his songs. They love it when Linkin Park vents it out in their songs. So now if these same youth take pleasure in a song from our own country, that I would say, to some extent, is songwriting genius, is it a crime?
If I’m not mistaken, the people hating Bhaag DK Bose are the same who enjoyed Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hain when it came out? Entendre okay, open cussing (not even open) not?
“Tumhara ishq, ishq. Aur humara ishq, sex?”
Jay Maniyar (@jayblawgs) says that Bhaag DK Bose is “very populist.” But then if it is out to please all, why is it getting the backlash that it is? Nishtha Kanal (@RootKanal) says that “you cannot explain having bhosdike in your song to the parents of a ten year old kid.” True. When Kaminey released, a newspaper article said that there was a rise in the use of the word kaminey. I wondered then, what would happen once Inglourious Basterds released. Nothing did. Why? English film. It’s the popular culture that Indian folks are worried about. Nishtha adds, “I don’t approve of gaalis in mass culture; loses its sheen in a way.” But which ten-year old child isn’t exposed to cuss words, or sex scenes, or violence in movies? The best parents can do is explain to their children what it its implications are and why they shouldn’t go about singing it at their school during recess.
And then, the perplexing question. Where were these people during Munni and Sheila? So it is not okay if a father calls his son the foam from the soap (“saabun ki shakal mein, beta tu toh nikla keval jhaag”), but Sheila’s jawani being too sexy for us is acceptable. (The problem caused to people named Munni and Sheila is another issue altogether [men to blame, no denying that]; at least I don’t think there exists anyone named DK Bose; it’s an old joke anyway.) Weren’t ten year old kids singing “I’m too sexy for you” and gyrating to Munni’s Zandu Balm moves? Where was the moral brigade then?
Back to Bhaag DK Bose, I still consider it to be the catchiest of the lot. The interesting part is that bhosdike being a North Indian cuss word, many people were not familiar with the running joke (pun unintended) in the song. And these were 20-25 year olds I’m walking about. What’s the probability that a ten year old child will know the intricacies of the wordplay? Whose dirty mind is at work?
At the end of it all, I’m in favour of Mr. DK Bose running away from the storm (which he invariably is doing). Are you?
Written by Runcil Rebello (@MrNarci).