So, a few marvelous ladies and I attended a screening of Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries), an Indian film that was being shown at the Kennedy Center as part of their monthlong “Maximum India” festival. First off, the following equation (shocker: I’m using Math, of all things, to communicate!): Indian culture + the Kennedy Center + an awesome, intelligent company of women = yummy goodness. I had a wonderful time.
So, wow, wow, wow. Wow. Dhobi Ghat was a powerful, moving film, about four intersecting lives and the different turns each life takes amidst the backdrop of the city of Mumbai. It certainly struck me, for a number of reasons. A few:
Not Your Usual Bollywood. Being a major fan of Bollywood films, this movie was a significant departure from the burst of color and music that comes with that particular genre. In fact, I was struck by the absence of color in the film. Even the costumes of the main characters were muted, gray, dark. Quite honestly, it was reality rendered on screen. And it was refreshing. Interestingly enough, for me, I’ve always been a proponent of film escapism—it’s rare that I enjoy a movie that presents life in its depressing, dreary moments (why seek it out in entertainment when we have those moments in real life? is an argument I’ve used before)—but in this instance, the absence of the music video touch to Mumbai and its people was a welcomed change.
Yasmin Noor. Out of the four main characters in the film, I was, by far, moved by the character of Yasmin Noor. We meet Yasmin through a series of videotaped letters that she makes for her younger brother following her marriage to a man who, during the two times we actually see him, doesn’t utter more than two words to his new wife. From then on, as the film goes on and the character of Arun (who moved into Yasmin’s former apartment and found the tapes) watches these video diaries, we see Yasmin quietly falling apart as a result of her loneliness, acutely missing her family back home, and the sad unraveling of her marriage. It was such an understated and amazing performance by Kriti Malhotra, the actress who plays Yasmin Noor. (At the Q&A after the film, we learned that Malhotra isn’t even an actress by trade and that she had prirmarily worked in the costume department. A natural talent, by all means.) She communicated her emotions so subtly—through a smile here, an expression of longing there, the sad timbre of her voice. So incredibly moving.
Let’s Talk about It. Any film that inspires questions and dialogue—among friends, in our case, or with the number of people that posed questions at the Q&A—is one worthy of consideration. The movie was not without its flaws and imperfections, but it got us talking, and I’m all for that.