Aamir Khan Productions, directed by Kiran Rao; wife of Aamir Khan.
Aamir Khan has accomplished what other Bollywood producers and directors have been questing, striving to achieve for at least a decade. “Dohbi Ghat” is a story that could have been filmed anywhere; it is universal in theme and content.
Gone are the gyrating, aerobic Bollywood dances, fragile chaste women, hours of pain, running, passion, redemption, predictable “happy,” tearful conclusions. The film is 100 minutes with equal billing for English and Hindi languages.
Shai (Monica Dogra) is the quintessential twenty-first century woman; she is an investment banker, on sabbatical, nurturing her avocation as a photographer; she meets a reclusive, divorced, on the cusp of major- recognition, painter, Arun (somberly and intelligently depicted by Aamir Khan); sparks fly, wine leads to one night of intimacy but morning brings death to the supernova of delights savored before the sun rose. Shai, is completely at ease, not nonplussed and leaves with no regrets; strings not needed, nor wanted.
The mysterious Arun develops a fixation, fascination with the person who vacated the apartment he now inhabits, after discovering tapes recorded by the absent occupant (luminously played by Kriti Malhorta). Mr. Khan smolders sensuously, never betraying the underlying depth of his angst, annoyance with life’s powerful punches.
Aamir Khan, born into a family of film producers and actors, through the years has evolved into a titian of the Bollywood film industry garnishing a plethora of awards for “Raja Hindustani”, “ Lagaan” (debut of his own production company); “Rang De Basanti”. His directorial debut, the contemporary, provocative and sensitive “Tare Zameen Par”, earned the Best Director Award from Filmfare, acknowledging his remarkable creation. But it is in “Dhobi Ghat” that he eliminates class distinctions: Shai’s relationship with Munna (Prateik Babbar) a handsome laundry (dohbi) man fantasizing, harboring aspirations of stardom. He addresses the vicissitudes of an arranged marriage; others have done this but Mr. Khan’s approach is unique and mesmerizing in technique. He dares to tread on the sacrosanct, eliminates the boundaries between men and women, bulldozes the platitudes and predictabilities still in existence in the Bollywood genre. One must applaud his fortitude and gumption in battling the oracles of film criticism and censorship in producing this stunning film; it might not have mass appeal but an educated audience, looking for substance and thought- provoking drama, hungry for realism, not escapism, will devour the pungency, mastery of the message.
Living in the land of Hollywood, knowledgeable of the intricacies, nuances, therapeutic responsibilities of Bollywood, my mission has been calculated to crack the Western aversion or ennui towards films from the East; fissures have been made, allowing Chinese, Korean, Japanese movies to infiltrate and be distributed throughout our land but the struggle is still daunting when it comes to movies from India. Tragically, the heroic distributors who do choose to show these films are faced with a complete lack of interest or attendance from Indian American audiences; this is a travesty, a bitter, incomprehensible phenomenon, a toxic pill to digest. Why should a Western audience embrace, support this aesthetic if they do not?