Kiran Rao's "Mumbai Diaries" (Dhobi Ghat) is a shimmering, loving homage to the formerly named Bombay in all its teeming, crowded vitality. With its key settings in a crowded, largely decrepit, congested yet beguiling, picturesque older portion of this city of 14 million inhabitants, the film is like a rich tapestry in which are interwoven the intersecting lives of three people.
It marks a subtle, assured and altogether distinctive feature debut for writer-director Rao and its radiant leading lady, rock star and stage performer Monica Dogra.
Dogra's Shai is a New York investment banker on a sabbatical when she meets a painter, Arun (veteran star Aamir Khan, Rao's husband and co-producer) at an exhibition of his latest work. Liquor loosens inhibitions, and the next morning Arun declares their romantic tryst a one-night stand. Wealthy, successful and self-confident, Shai, on the surface, handles rejection with aplomb, but the pair inadvertently stays connected through an impoverished young laundry delivery man, Munna (Prateik Babbar).
Shai involves Munna in a photography project in which she is recording the lives and trades of working people of Mumbai, while Arun, newly settled in a refurbished apartment, discovers a cache of videos left in an old wardrobe drawer by a former tenant. As Shai and Munna traverse Mumbai, Arun becomes captivated by the videos of the beautiful Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), which are messages to a loved one. Munna, who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star, finds himself falling in love with Shai but is reluctant to cross class lines.