Kiran Rao's debut has been described as 'sparkling'- and I quite agree. Both in terms of freshness and simplicity, like a good glass of white wine. The movie itself, devoid of the pointless intermission, fits neatly into an afternoon and doesn't leave you with that heavy feeling of having given up an unretrievable 3 hours of your life.
On to the story- there is not much of that, in the strictest sense that we are used to. What it does have is characters, the city, and relationships. Interestingly, each of the four main characters has a relationship with the camera, and this acts as a kind of narrative thread. Main character one is Shai Eduljee, a nice, wealthy US-born girl who is in Mumbai for a project. She runs into main character two- grouchy Arun, a renowned painter who's just moved houses. Here he comes across a bunch of videotapes recorded by the young former occupant of his flat-she is character three. And the dhobi who happens to work for both Arun and Shai is character four- Munna.
All four, needless to say, become involved in the others' lives. In the backdrop, Dhobi Ghat is a visual journey of the famous Bombay in its many-armed splendor. Shots of the monsoon, chawl life, Marine Drive and haunting visuals of blue-lit night locals- all float past in a sort of dreamy roll-call. The performances are sweet and well fleshed out, with touches not normally seen in Hindi cinema. I was particularly impressed by Monica Dogra (Shai) and the dishy Pratiek as Munna.
All in all, I very much appreciated the director's eye, the light yet substantial story-telling, the haunting music score and the fine performances. Way to go, Kiran Rao. Please give us more!