Kahaani and Mumbai Diaries Film Review

Dhobighat and Kahaani Film reviews [Student Name] [Course Title] [Course Supervisor] Film reviews Introduction: The Indian film industry has never been popular for its art films. Art films in Indian cinemas usually try to portray a particular aspect of the Indian culture and norm. These movies avoid all the glitz and glamour normally found in Indian movies. No glitz or glamour usually restricts these movies to a low budget nor are these movies able to attract a large number of audience to the cinema.
Directors that usually make such movies try to get a point across to the audience using the cinema screen to portray their view of a particular issue within the community. Dhobighat The movie starts off showing Arun (Amir Khan) moving into a shabby apartment in an old locality of Mumbai. The film depicts Arun as an artist who meets Shia (Monica Dogra) an American investment banker at one of his exhibitions. The two fall for each other and end up spending the night together.
Shai expects Arun would commit to their new found relationship but instead Arun makes it clear that he is not interested in a long term relationship and their night together was nothing more than a one night stand. Shai angry at Arun’s attitude leaves the apartment (Gurbaxani, 2011). This scene depicts a cultural trend that has greatly influenced the modern Indian society. Indian women are known to be conservative. They are forbidden to have premarital sexual relationships. However influenced by western culture, more and more Indian women have been engaging in premarital sex (Dhawan & Kurup, 2006).

Spending the night with Arun highlights the western influence that has been a part of the Indian society for quite some time now. Whereas getting angry at Arun for his lack of commitment portrays the conservative Indian side that has been a tradition with in the Indian society. Munna (Prateik Babbar) is the laundry boy for Shai and Arun. Munna aspires to become a famous actor. Munna has a brother who has links to the underworld and his brother tries to use his links within the industry to try and get Munna a break even though Munna is against his brothers activities.
Later on in the movie Munna’s brother is murdered probably because of his ties to the underworld (Gurbaxani, 2011). The movie in this scene highlights the underworld influence that has made its way to the Indian film industry. There have been many instances and incidents where mob bosses from the Indian underworld have funded and backed various producers. Anyone who has refused to work in mob backed movies has received threats and sometimes even been targeted by the underworld. Initially the mob bosses were just like any other fans of bollywood superstars.
However all that changed when one of these mobsters started financing movies of an actress he fancied. Soon the rest of the underworld got on the idea. Refusal of banks to invest in Indian cinema forced the producers to accept offerings made by the mob bosses (Corliss, 2002). Munna arrives at Shai’s apartment to collect her laundry and the two soon become good friends. Munna offers to become her guide and in return Shai promises she would prepare a portfolio for Munna which he plans to send out to various producers. Munna soon starts developing feelings for Shai but is unable to express his feelings for her (Gurbaxani, 2011).
India has been a country where people have been divided into different castes and creeds. From ancient times the caste system has defined the social, financial and economic lives of the Indian people. Marriage of an individual is limited to his or her caste, castes are defined by birth and a person’s caste decides the job that person is best suited for (Callaham & Pavich, 2011). The movie cites Munna’s lower caste and the difference of financial status as the main reasons as to why he doesn’t confess his fee lings to Shai. Meanwhile Shai gets obsessed wit Arun and starts stalking him.
The building opposite to Arun’s apartment is under construction and the builder happens to be Shai’s father. Taking advantage of this fact Shai uses the building as a means to take Arun’s pictures without his knowledge. Arun on the other hand has his mind set on the tapes that belonged to the previous tenant of the house. The tapes contain messages from a woman named Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) to her brother. Arun watches those tapes and soon starts drawing inspiration from them (Gurbaxani, 2011). It is normal for artists to draw inspiration from daily objects.
Different artists gain inspiration from different day to day objects and people. These inspirations can be from friends, family or even a song they like (Barnett, 2012). The movie cites the tapes by Yasmin as a means of inspiration for Arun’s work. To make a living and promote his dream of becoming a movie star Munna works as a laundrier by day and kills rats for different localities by night time. Once while taking some pictures Shai comes across Munna while he is on his night job working as an exterminator. Shai takes his picture while Munna is working. Angry and confused Munna makes a run for it.
Arun watches the last video left by Yasmin in which she confesses that her husband is in fact having an affair and shows signs that she would probably kill herself. Feeling frustrated Arun leaves the apartment for good. Shai gets hold of Munna and asks him for Arun’s new address. Initially Munna hesitates and lies about not knowing the where abouts of Arun but eventually gives her Arun’s new address (Gurbaxani, 2011). The film depicts Yasmin as the narrator and uses her experiences of Mumbai to portray the famous landmarks of the city in a completely new perspective.
The narration of Yasmin’s experiences gives Dhobighat the shape of a love letter written to the city of Mumbai. The movie uses various situations to provide a comparison of the physical and mental differences amongst the various sects of individuals living in Mumbai. An example is a scene from the movie in which Shai wants to conduct Munna’s photo shoot outside the studio. However Munna being a native of Mumbai does not find the sights and sceneries of Mumbai as fascinating as Shai does (Gurbaxani, 2011). Normally Bollywood films are very expensive and can cost up to $20 million (The Economist, 2000).
Up until the 1990s the sets, costumes and special effects used were mediocre in quality. The popularity of Hollywood movies in India forced the directors and producers to improve the quality of their movies (The Economist, 2000). However Dhobighat cost a mere $1. 8 million a fact that astonished and amazed majority of Indian and international film critics (Pillai, 2010). Indian filmmakers find that shooting in foreign countries draws the public to the cinema. Various foreign locations have been used in the past to make the movie more appealing to the masses.
Either film makers choose foreign locations to get away from the crowd or they argue that it is the need of the script that makes them choose those foreign locations. Incentives given to the indian film industry by the government also attracts various film makers towards the idea of shooting at foreign locations (Trivedi, 2012). Dhobighat was produced using guerilla techniques in which multiple localities of Mumbai were used to make the movie. The director Kiran Rao didn’t use any kind of set at all. Kiran wanted to Dhobighat to be a tribute to the people of Mumbai (OutlookIndia. com, 2010).
Most of the parts in the film were in English something that troubled Kiran and Amir Khan. Majority of indian population had a hard time understanding English a factor that most likely would have affected the film’s business. The production team decided to dub the English scenes in Hindi (Pillai, 2010). The distributor of the movie for United States and India was UTV. UTV a subsidiary of Walt Disney has been one of the major distributors of Indian cinema and has been one of the prominent entities in bringing Indian cinema to the world. The last decade or so has been the turning point of the company.
UTV took up movies that changed the way movies were made in Bollywood. A number of these movies were hits. Peepli live, Rang De Basanti and Brfi are examples of some of the great films that UTV Motion Pictures have worked on. Senior Vice President at UTV Motion Pictures U. S. A dubbed the movie as being different to what Indian movie fans are used to. He was also critical about the reception the movie was going to get. Despite the Academy Awards taking place on the same date UTV released the movie on 21st January 2011 in United States and India.
The release date couldn’t be delayed because India was hosting the world cup and the film crew wanted to release the film on the same date to prevent the production of pirated copies. UTV gave preference to the Indian fans because the movie mainly targeted the Indian audience. UTV were encouraged after the Dhobighat got positive response at the Toronto and London film festivals (Sydney, 2011). Dhobighat was a success at the box office. Despite everyone’s expectations Dhobighat was liked by the Indian population raking in more than $2. 6 million in India.
The film did fairly well in United States, United Kingdom and Dubai making more than $780000. Internationally the movie did quite well making a whopping $1. 6 million. The success of Dhobighat pleased the lead star and producer Amir Khan. Amir Khan further commented and dubbed the movie as a success because of the type of movie it was. Kahaani The movie starts at Kolkata metro rail where a gas attack takes place killing the passengers on board. Fast forward a few years a pregnant woman named Vidya Bagachi (Vidya Balan) arrives in Kolkata from London during a religious festival.
Vidya is a software engineer who is searching for her missing husband. During her visit to the local police station Vidya meets Satyaki Rana Sinha (Parambrata Chatterjee) a police officer who agrees to help Vidya in finding her husband. The two visit National Data Center where Vidya claims her husband worked (Dhaniwala, 2012). In India the police are usually considered incompetent and inefficient. They have frequently been criticized by the mass population for not taking their jobs seriously, accepting bribes and folding after being pressurized by top officials.
However the movie shows Indian police in a positive light and in particular the character of Rana playing the role of a true police officer and helping Vidya in her quest to find her husband (Pagnamenta, 2013). At the NDC office Vidya and Rana are perplexed when human resource department at NDC deny having employed Vidya’s husband. However the head of the human resource department suggests that Vidya’s husband resembles a lot like an ex-employee, Milan Damji (Indraneil Sengupta). The head of the HR department is murdered by a hitman named Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee) before she could share Damji’s records with Vidya.
Vidya and Rana break into the records of NDC to get more information on Damji. While searching for Damji’s records Vidya and Rana have a close encounter with Bob. The two barely escape with their lives. Vidya meets an intelligence bureau officer Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who is investigating the gas attack of Kolkata. Khan warns Vidya about the dangers of the case and informs her that Damji is wanted fugitive who is the prime suspect of the gas attacks. Khan advises Vidya to back off and leave Damjee to the police. However Vidya completely ignores Khan’s advice and visits the address stated on Damjee’s records (Dhaniwala, 2012).
Indians believe that when a woman sets her mind to it she can achieve anything for the sake of her husband. These acts of courage by women originate from the story in Ramayana of a king named Dasaratha and his queen Kaikeyi who showed courage in the face of fear and saved her husband from imminent death. The movie depicts Vidya in the same manner as Kaikeyi who besides the fact being pregnant is willing to risk her life and the life of her child to find her husband and ensure his safety. Kahaani isn’t the first movie to depict such actions from Indian wives.
Over the years there have been numerous films that have shown Indian wives going to great lengths to protect and obey their husbands (Murthy, 2001). Upon reaching the stated address Vidya and Rana meet an errand boy working at a small tea shop. The errand boy recognizes Damjee and gives Vidya the name of R. Sridhar an officer of NDC who frequently visited Damjee during his stay at the apartment. Bob on the instructions of Sridhar makes an attempt on Vidya’s life but dies in the process. The examination of Bob’s phone gives Vidya and Rana an IP address.
Vidya confronts Sridhar at his office. A scuffle breaks our between the two and Vidya eventually ends up shooting Sridhar. The death of Sridhar angers Khan who wanted Sridhar for questioning. Vidya procures a phone number from Sridhar’s computer and dials it. It is revealed that the number belongs to Bhaskaran K. (Dhritiman Chaterji) an Investigation Bureau officer and Khan’s superior. Vidya informs Bhaskaran that she has some sensitive documents left behind by Sridhar and threatens him that if he does not cooperate she could use those documents to send him to jail.
Bhaskaran tells Vidya straight up that he is not associated with any of this. However a few minutes later Vidya receives a call asking for the documents in return for the safety of her husband (Dhaniwala, 2012). Suspecting the call was from Damji Vidya agrees to meet the caller at the place of his choice with Khan and Rana on her trail. The caller turns out to be Damji and during their talks Damjee attacks Vidya. Damji menacingly points his gun at Vidya who uses her prosthetic abdomen; she was using to fake her pregnancy, to knock the gun out of his hand.
Vidya kills Damji and flees the scene. It is later revealed that Vidya was in fact Arup Basu’s (Abir Chatterji) wife. Arup was killed in the gas attack and she had returned to India to seek revenge of her husband’s death (Dhaniwala, 2012). Again Kahaani isn’t the first movie where women have been shown seeking revenge for themselves or for the death of someone they loved. Bandit Queen is an example of such a movie where a poor woman who is raped and abused by high caste men in her village. She joins a gang of bandits and seeks revenge upon all who did her wrong.
Another story is that of ek haseena thi where a man takes advantage of a simple woman and frames her for drug possession. Upon her release from prison she sets out t find the man who framed her to seek her revenge (rain singer, 2011). The film director and the co-writer of the script Ghosh had trouble finding producers for Kahaani. His film Aladdin was a flop despite having a star studded cast and the producers were reluctant in investing in his future ventures. The idea of a pregnant woman as the lead actress and small time actors in supporting roles were also factors that discouraged the producers from financing the movie.
The low cast of shooting in Kolkata and the small budget attracted Ghosh to the idea of shooting the movie in Kolkata (Zee news, 2012). The script writer Adviata Kala did some extensive research for the film. She based most of the story on her personal experience of the city when she was searching for her boyfriend. She stated that even though there was a difference in the culture and the language barrier existed the people were very hospitable and welcoming something that can be seen in the movie (Mitra, 2012). To prepare for her role Vidya Balan visited a doctor to consult about the prosthetic belly.
Vidya also consulted her doctor of how a pregnant woman was to act and how what troubles would a pregnant woman normally face. Vidya claimed that she used to portray as a pregnant woman in her college days which helped her out in her out in the film (zee news, 2012). Like Kiran Roa Ghosh used the technique of guerilla filming for his movie. The director admitted that guerilla shooting in the busy city of Kolkata during the festival was not easy. Frequently the participants of the festival stare directly into the camera or in the faces of the actors (Movie Talkies, 2012).
Ghosh shot different localities of Kolkata without the public’s knowledge. Ghosh thought it would be easier to shoot without any hassle brought on by the crowd and without the need of crowd control. The shooting of the film and of Durga Pooja festival was completed in 64 days. Ghosh wanted the character of Bob to be of a hitman that would easily blend into the crowd. Ghosh briefed Chatterjee over his role and told him to portray Bob as being polite. To make the character seem more believable Ghosh gave him a bald patch and advised Chatterjee to frequently rub his nails, as Indians believe rubbing ones nails prevents hair loss.
Bobs character received remarkable praise from the critics and from the viewers. His famous one liner from the film became hit on the internet with individuals quoting him on different social networking websites. The young generation of India was really impressed by Bob and some of them even approached Ghosh with the idea of a graphic novel based on Bob. It is also rumored that some one has approached Ghosh with the idea of a television series based on the life of Bob (Mukherjee, 2012). The main distributors of Kahaani were Viacom 18 Motion Pictures.
Viacom 18 Motion Pictures has been around for quite some time now dealing with Indian movies. Some of the famous movies that have done business with Viacom are Players, Son of sardar and Tanu weds Manu. The movie was a success at the box office. Initially during the first week the movie experienced a poor response. The film made $370000 in the province of Bengal in the time p of three days and during that time the seat occupancy rose from 47% on the first day to 94% on the third. The movie generated $4. 4 million in the first week passing its production cost of $1. million. By the end of the second week the movie made up to $7. 9 million in India alone. Box office India dubbed the movie a super hit just after two weeks (Box office India, 2012). Oversees the movie did reasonably well being able to generate the revenue of $1. 5 million from United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan and Malaysia. Hindustan times estimated that Kahaani had generated $19 million world wide within 50 days of its release (First Post, 2012). Kahaani’s success brought on a new trend among Bollywood producers and directors.
Kolkata became a favorite location for the industry. The use of Kolkata as an opening scene was completely different from traditional Bollywood movies that had been using Mumbai and Delhi as their prime locations for shooting. The city’s colonial buildings and the hand rickshaws all added to the magnificent scenario that was presented by Ghosh in the movie. The release of the movie also had a significant impact on the tourism in Kolkata. In particular the guest house used by Vidya in the movie has attracted a lot of tourists (OneIndia. com, 2012).
Ghosh plans to produce a sequel for Kahaani and use Vidya Balan as his lead actress in the same recurring role. The shooting of Kahaani 2 is to take place in 2013. The film industry has already seen the making of Kahaani in Tamil and Telegue. Conclusion The success of low budget art movies like Dhobighat and Kahaani shows a change in the trend that has been found amongst the Indian viewers. Viewers have now grown tired of all the love stories and senseless action movies that has been the recipe for a successful Bollywood movie. The viewers now want to watch movies that have a strong plot and have good stories.
The success of Kahaani and Dhobighat despite their unknown actors is proof that indian viewers want to watch movies with a good plot. Expensive movies such as Agent Vinod and Rush are proof that a big budget and a star studded cast does not guarantee the success of a movie. Using real locations instead of expensive sets is another factor that separates Kahaani and Dhobighat from other movies. Instead of using foreign locations these movies opted to use popular areas of Indian cities to shoot their movies significantly reducing the budget needed for the movies.
Art movies in the past decade or so have generated a great deal of revenue not only in India but overseas as well. List of References Barnett, L. , 2012. Top artists reveal how to find creative inspiration. [Online] Available at: http://www. guardian. co. uk/culture/2012/jan/02/top-artists-creative-inspiration [Accessed 8 April 2013]. Box office India, 2012. Agent Vinod Average Opening Kahaani Extraordinary Week Two. [Online] Available at: http://boxofficeindia. com/boxdetail. php? page=shownews&articleid=4192&nCat= [Accessed 10 April 2013]. Callaham, T. amp; Pavich, R. , 2011. Indian caste system. [Online] Available at: http://www. csuchico. edu/~cheinz/syllabi/asst001/spring98/india. htm [Accessed 8 April 2013]. Corliss, R. , 2002. Married to the Mob. [Online] Available at: http://www. time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,361780,00. html [Accessed 9 April 2013]. Dhaniwala, M. , 2012. Kahaani Review. [Online] Available at: http://www. koimoi. com/reviews/kahaani-review/ [Accessed 10 April 2013]. Dhawan, H. & Kurup, S. , 2006. Pre-marital sex: Girls like to keep mum. [Online] Available at: http://articles. timesofindia. ndiatimes. com/2006-10-24/india/27785487_1_report-sexual-debut-indian-women [Accessed 8 April 2013]. First Post, 2012. Kahaani: What’s the story behind the numbers? [Online] Available at: http://www. firstpost. com/bollywood/kahaani-whats-the-story-behind-the-numbers-253056. html [Accessed 10 April 2013]. Gurbaxani, A. , 2011. ‘Dhobi Ghat’ Is A Sparkling Debut. [Online] Available at: http://mumbaiboss. com/2011/01/21/%E2%80%98dhobi-ghat%E2%80%99-is-a-sparkling-debut/ [Accessed 8 April 2013]. Mitra, I. , 2012. Vidya’s journey was my own: Advaita Kala. [Online] Available at:

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