With simultaneous premieres today in India and the U.S., “Mumbai Diaries” (“Dhobi Ghat”) is screening at the Balboa Theater in The City.
Gary Meyer, owner of the Balboa and co-director of the Telluride Film Festival, made special efforts to secure the film — originally scheduled only in specialized theaters catering to Indian audiences — for his venue.
Meyer, the Toronto Film Festival and critics there all hailed “Mumbai Diaries,” with good reason. It is a fascinating portrait of four people, all contemporary and very different, in the massive Indian city, set against the background of a place emerging into modern times.
Director-actor Aamir Khan (“Lagaan”) produced and stars in “Mumbai Diaries,” and his wife, Kiran Rao, wrote and directed the film.
Khan plays Arun, a gifted, difficult painter who has a one-night stand with a thoroughly Americanized banker, Shai, played by singer Monica Dogra. (Do you remember only recently when Indian films still forbade an innocent kiss? Times are changing.)
Prateik Babbar makes a deep impression as Munna, a young and handsome laundry boy (dhobi) who has a hopeless crush on Shai, who extends a class-defying and confusing friendship to him.
The fourth principal is Yasmin (Kriti Mahotra, attractive in an old-fashioned way, in contrast to Dogra’s modernity), who appears only on a video tape found by Arun when the painter moves into a new house.
The freshman director does an outstanding job maintaining a cohesive, compelling story even while the characters come and go in the tumultuous city. “Mumbai Diaries” is one of those rare films with believable characters viewers really care about.
The movie’s open-ended, ambiguous conclusion is exactly right in bridging the gap between the fiction in the dark theater and the bright light of real life outside.
Starring Monica Dogra, Kriti Malhotra, Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar
Written and directed by Kiran Rao
Running time 1 hour 40 minutes