Dhobi Ghat ('Mumbai Diaries') is the story of four strangers from different castes and circumstances whose lives intersect in India’s bustling city of Mumbai.
These strangers are also linked by their interest or involvement with art, images, and media. This allows the characters and the audience to experience events with new eyes, as they communicate while attempting to make meaning of their existence.
The genesis of the movie is an interesting intersection of talent and roles, marriage, art, and business. One of India’s most beloved and prolific actors, Aamir Khan is the lead actor and producer of the film. His wife, Kiran Rao, serves as writer, director, and producer. In an interview provided with the film's press notes, one can sense the fun and challenge of making a movie with one's spouse.
Kiran Rao talks about the inspiration for her first feature: “I wrote this script a few years ago with two ideas as starting points for this story of four people adrift in the city.
“One grew out of the personal experience I’ve had as a tenant in Mumbai,” explains Rao about needing to move to a new apartment every year due to the city’s short-term tenancy laws. “Every new apartment I moved to always felt a little warm from the last occupant.”
She had always felt an unspoken connection with the previous tenants, wondering about leaving something behind to reveal her life and secrets to the next tenant.
Rao’s second idea was “to examine whether it’s really possible in a country riddled with class and caste prejudice for an upper-class girl to have a relationship with a boy from a disadvantaged background."
Khan speaks with humor and candor about their unique collaboration and synergy.
“When my wife Kiran told me that she was working on a script, I was most apprehensive,” Khan says, secretly hoping she would never complete the project. “If the script did not work for me, then things would get most uncomfortable between us,” joked Khan.
Khan, strategically approached his cousin, Mansoor, also a filmmaker, for reinforcement when he would give the newly spiral-bound script a thumbs down.
So, Mansoor, his wife Tina, and Khan sat down one afternoon to hear the first narration of Dhobi Ghat.
“All three of us loved it.
“I fell in love with the characters, loved the dialogue, and the voice of each person, was struck by the fine silken threads that made the narrative and was moved to tears by the end.
“Kiran has been an absolute delight to work with,” Khan says of the relationship and the experience of being directed by his wife.
“As a producer and an actor, I feel most safe in her hands. She has clarity, sensitivity, and an ability to bring the best out in the team, which makes her a leader I am happy to follow.”