Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dhobi Ghat: A squandered opportunity

Dhobi Ghat must have been one of the most eagerly awaited releases in the past few years. Much of this has to do with the reputation that Amir Khan has over the years acquired with regard to the films that he chooses to act in or, of late, to produce. The pint-sized giant, whose fame seems to have reached far-off places, as evident from his inclusion in the jury of Berlin film festival, has indeed come a long way.
Even his worst critics would agree that he tries to be different every time he faces the camera. And ever since he has donned the producer's mantle, he has demonstrated remarkable courage in throwing his lot with projects like "Peepli Live" which would have otherwise not seen the light of the day in an age when NFDC has become defunct and the enigmatic monster called market is setting the new rules of the game.
One, however, wonders whether Khan would have liked to be a part of Dhobi Ghat had it not been the directorial debut of his wife. Whatever may be his shortcomings, Khan certainly has a keen sense of what would strike a chord with the audience. And that is one reason why his films are either blockbusters like 3 idiots or like "Peepli Live" and his own directorial venture "Taare Zameen Par" do well enough to recover the cost. One wonders whether he would be able to do the same this time.
It is not to say that Kiran Rao's debut venture is trash. It is more like a squandered opportunity, an unfulfilled promise. The opportunity and the promise to tell an engaging story.
It claims to be (!!!) telling the tales of four characters - an NRI who is in Mumbai on a sabbatical, an artist who is recovering from the emotional trauma inflicted by a recent divorce, a migrant from a distant village who does all types of menial jobs for a living while keeping hopes alive for making it big in the tinsel town and a young, chirpy, naive small-time woman who battles loneliness in the big city where her marriage has brought her and who, upon finding that the world is a bit too crooked for her, opts out of life. Each and every character, on its own, had the potential of developing into a beautiful story. But the makers of the film seem to have little patience with these. None of the characters is given enough scope to evolve. The inter-connection between the four characters appears more contrived than convincing.
The end product is a complete mishmash. Even those who are not die-hard admirers of Amir would say - this is not one would expect from a man of his calibre.