Arun says at his art exhibition – My paintings are about  Mumbai – My muse, my whore, my beloved.

And his description of my favourite city in the world lay stuck in my head long after the movie was over. I saw the movie 2 days back and that line just keeps coming back. Kiran Rao plays with her muse – her Mumbai.

The rich Parsi house by the sea, the 100 square feet shack by the railway tracks, the Eid festivities in the by-lanes of Mohamed Ali Road, the rat-infested gutters, the non-moving traffic, the age old yellow-black fiat taxis and the four wheel Audi zooming at speed of 10Km/hr on the roads, the gang-war in the slums, the rich doing drugs, the city that lights up when it rains, the jar that holds the water through a leaking roof, the sea that comes alive as the sun sets in and the Queen’s necklace shines.

And while she gives us a taste of the ethereal Mumbai, Kiran Rao also introduces us to the “real” people of this city. The New York returned investment banker who is attracted to a reclusive painter and her smart-looking laundry guy at the same time, the painter who runs away from relationships and gets emotionally entangled in a tape of a young Muslim bride’s video letters, the laundry guy who juggles between his night duty as the rat-killer and his dreams of being a Bollywood actor.

Of the 4 protagonists – Monica Dogra as Shai had the meatiest role and Aamir the star value. Both disappointed. For the first time since his debut in 1988 – I did not notice Aamir’s existence in the film so awed was I by Prateik Babbar’s innocence. Kriti Malhotra did a good job of a new bride in awe of Mumbai and her people – she introduces us to our Mumbai. But Dhobi Ghat is and will be Prateik Babbar’s film. Clearly we know whose genes have dominated when you see the boy act – when he is falling for the gal from the high-society, is building his muscles so that one day he can be like his hero Salman Khan, is snubbing the girl when he realizes she is attracted to another guy, is restraining himself from kissing the woman he is in love with, is narrating that hunger is what made him leave his hometown in Bihar and fetch a job in Mumbai, and is finally saying goodbye. In his every emotion, his every dialogue, his every mannerism, Prateik’s Munna charms his way into our hearts.

Dhobi Ghat is not a movie for the average movie goer. It left me confused. I had my hopes way too high as it was an Aamir Khan film and hence was disappointed even more. The story moves at a slow pace, and you keep waiting for the climax but there isn’t any and it strikes you that movie is over without any fanfare. The starters were well served and the meal seemed good too until you tasted it. I do not have the artistic sense in me to appreciate this movie and which is probably why I came out feeling a bit confused and lost.

I would still recommend though that you all go to see it once – for Prateik and for Kiran’s portrayal of my Mumbai. The Mumbai I hate, she irks me, she is going from bad to worse, she is chaotic, lacks discipline and is noisy, she differentiates between classes, she is the ground for religious hatred, she turns a blind eye to the crimes, she has become immune to injustice and she makes me cry; but when I see her, I can never forget that it was she who taught me to love, made me laugh, gave me moments I’ll treasure a lifetime, made me believe in miracles, taught me to be fair & treat everyone equally, taught me the dignity of labour, taught me pride, made me practical, and taught me to fight. She is the essence of my existence, and even though I live far away from her – she lives in me day in and out.

Mumbai is every Mumbaite’s muse, whore and beloved, she was, is and will always be – Kiran Rao you did great justice to that line and made that beloved looked divine.