Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries): movie review

'Dhobi Ghat' ('Mumbai Diaries') is an amalgam of soap opera and street-level realism.

Mumbai is a city of 14 million people and writer-director Kiran Rao focuses on four of them. “Dhobi Ghat” (“Mumbai Diaries”) is an odd amalgam of soap opera and street-level realism, with, alas, the former trumping the latter.

One plot strand, semidisposable, involves an amateur videographer (Kriti Malhotra). The bulk of the “diaries” are about Shai (Monica Dogra), an attractive Indian investment banker in America who returns on her sabbatical to Mumbai and falls into a one-night stand with acclaimed painter Arun (Aamir Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars). The tryst leaves her breathless and him bored.

By contrast, Munna (Prateik), a handsome washerman, or dhobi, falls hard for Shai, who, inexplicably, regards him only as a friend even though he seems more her type in every way. We’re supposed to believe that their class differences provide an uncrossable gap, but the frustration of this film is that nobody ever tries to bridge it. Grade: C (Unrated.)

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