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Discovering Mumbai all over again in Dhobi Ghat

Last updated on: February 7, 2011 11:54 IST

Discovering Mumbai all over again in Dhobi Ghat

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Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat showed us a Mumbai very few of us have actually seen, even though many of us may have lived here.

The film took us through the most crowded bylanes of the city, in festival time, and rain.

The man who got it done was Tushar Kanti Ray, the Director of Photography. This was his first film.

After graduating in Kolkata, Tushar did his post graduation in Cinematography at the Film and Television Institute of India. He then made a short film Shor which won him the Best Cinematography at San Francisco Shorts. It is now being converted into a full-length movie, produced by Balaji Productions, and starring Tusshar Kapoor.

Tushar tells Sonil Dedhia how he shot Mumbai. Watch the videos for a deeper understanding.

Shooting at Dhobi Ghat

Shooting at Dhobi Ghat was physically difficult because there was hardly any space there. The place is full of ditches, and of course, the area where the dhobis wash the clothes. So it was very difficult for my assistants and me to place the lights or move the camera. Many of my assistants and other people fell into the ditches! Luckily, nobody was injured.

This place is naturally so beautiful that there is no way one can shoot it badly. You can shoot the place from any angle and you won't be disappointed. It's like a picture postcard. The clothes line, the loops, the narrow lanes, different colours and its proximity to a railway station makes it an amazing canvas.


Image: The making of Dhobi Ghat

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Munna's House in Dhobi Ghat

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Munna's (Prateik Babbar) house was located near the station in Khar East, in suburban Mumbai. The house was so close to the railway tracks that it almost felt like it was on the railway track!

The first time I went on location, I wondered how I would shoot in such a small area. But then it also challenged me. The story demanded these locations and Munna's house couldn't have been any bigger.

The problem shooting there was the crowd. You show a camera and thousands of curious people gather, wanting to know what is going on. If you switch on the lights, more people will join in. 

But I don't blame them, as at some point of time, I was one of them!

Another problem was that we shot in sync sound, with a handheld camera. So that made it more difficult. As soon as we would get ready for the shoot, a train would pass by, so we would have to wait for it to go.

We also shot in a lot of by-lanes as Munna's charecter is a dhobi by day and a rat killer by night.


Image: The making of Dhobi Ghat

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Shooting Yasmin's character

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It's interesting to experiment. We wanted to shoot with a handicam. The whole cast and crew were familiar with world cinema, and we knew that some people would not like it. But Kiran was extremely honest about her work and didn't want to compromise. 

Yasmin and my camera had to be in a mechanic movement. We had to be in sync with each other. But it was not very difficult. After some shots, it became natural.

At some places, Yasmin had to operate the camera herself. For instance, the first time when her husband gifted her the camera.

The opening sequence in the taxi was the most talked about sequence, and that was wonderful to shoot as well. The camera movements are quite shaky but that gave a natural look to the film.

Kiran has also shot some portions. There is a sequence where Yasmin is talking to her maid and the maid's daughter. That was Kiran's maid in real life. Yasmin was not present, as she was not required so Kiran was saying Yasmin's lines. Whenever I would say 'action' instead of looking at the camera, she would look at Kiran and start acting. So we went out of the room and Kiran operated the camera herself.

Image: The making of Dhobi Ghat

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Shooting at Mohammed Ali Road

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Shooting at Mohammed Ali Road (in south Mumbai) was the toughest because that was the first thing I shot in the film. 

I was very nervous then. Dhobi Ghat is my first film, and in my first sequence, I had to shoot Aamir Khan.

The biggest challenge was shooting Aamir in a crowd of about 1,000 people. We had four hidden cameras placed at different positions. Aamir knew where the cameras were placed but during the take, he didn't have much knowledge about it. Out of the four cameras, I handled the main camera and my assistants handled the other three.

Everything had to be ready, as it would be very easy for any one to recognise Aamir in the crowd and mob him. Aamir decided to come one a bike till he reached the place, and then remove his helmet and start walking casually.

We kept two markers around Aamir Khan, to frame him. In the movie, you can see a guy wearing a cap walking in front of him, and a guy behind Aamir, holding a basket on his shoulders.

Also, Aamir was wearing a catchy blue shirt, making it easier to capture him among such a huge crowd. 

The difficult part for me was that I had to focus on Aamir and then focus on Shai (Monica Dogra) and Munna, who were also a part of the crowd.

As soon as he came to the spot, the cameras started rolling. People realised it was Aamir but he just vanished from the scene. We managed to get the shot.

Kiran wanted to shoot it once more, so we decided to repeat the process. 

The best part about shooting at Mohammed Ali Road during Ramzan is that the crowd is constantly moving. People come, eat, and don't wait. So we decided to repeat the shot after two hours. And we managed to get it right again.


Image: The making of Dhobi Ghat

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Arun's house in Dhobi Ghat

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Arun's (Aamir Khan) house was located near Masjid Bunder in the older part of South Mumbai. Aamir practically lived there for two-three weeks. The same house was used to shoot a lot of portions of Yasmin's character, as it is shown that she was staying there before Arun moved in.

It was tougher to shoot in this house than Mohammed Ali Road because the house had eight windows and one door, so it was difficult to control the light. Lighting can make or break a scene. We used a lot of natural lighting to shoot this part.

In the movie, Shai's character goes on top of an under-construction building and tries to peep into Arun's house with a help of still camera. That under-construction building was just computer graphics; it was not present at all.


Image: The making of Dhobi Ghat

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