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Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) Only as Interesting as Its Peripheral Details

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)—a new Indian indie written and directed by Kiran Rao that’s kind of about a romantic rich man/rich girl/poor boy love triangle, but is mostly about vanishing culture in Mumbai—is sadly only as interesting as its peripheral details. Star Aamir Khan, who also produced the film, plays Arun, a bored painter and the obsession of wealthy student Shai (Monica Dogra). Shai also happens to be taken with Munna (Prateik Babbar), a lowly “dhobi,” or laundry boy. Though Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) mostly follows the flat-line courtship between its three main characters, the film’s melodrama features a wealth of largely undeveloped ideas about Mumbai’s rapidly disappearing living history. Labor-intensive crafts, like perfumes mixed by a local artisan, are being driven out of business by store brands, drugs and rats run everywhere, and camcorders have taken the place of paintings in capturing the city’s ephemeral moments. Sadly, the cast is mostly out to lunch—the characteristically stoic Khan is the film’s most expressive performer—and consequently, the protagonists’ dueling romances never get off the ground. Had Rao chosen to foreground her tantalizing ideas instead of her instantly forgettable characters, Mumbai Diaries could have been more than the sum of its parts.


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