Dharavi, the densely populated settlement in Bombay (Mumbai) – patronizingly touted as one of the largest slums in the world – has always formed a dramatic counterpoint and dark underbelly, in Hindi cinema, to the pompous epithet of ‘city of dreams’. In the eponymously titled movie directed by Sudhir Mishra, the grim and gritty tale of one man – his fierce ambition, desire to rapidly climb the socioeconomic ladder, dogged refusal to strike compromises with his harsh realities – provided an indictment to the city’s romanticized image that through sheer hard work, burning ambitions and a bit of luck, a pauper can jolly well become a wealthy prince. An embittered taxi driver (Om Puri), living in a cramped shack with his wife (Shabana Azmi), plans to buy a business for dying clothes along with his drinking pals. However, when contributions fall short, he makes the fatal choice of taking help from a local gangster which leads to disastrous downward spirals for all. The film ended on a feeble note of hope that added an interesting ambiguity to the vicious cycle. His obsession with getting off the rut, punching way above his weight and becoming the owner of his own fate, was manifested in his parallel fantasy world by his romancing with a screen goddess (Madhuri Dixit playing herself) who represents the highest echelon of beauty, dream and desire for him – a holy grail that he can never attain in the sordid grime that he exists. Over-usage of slow-mo, sound amplifications and echoes, to create visceral effects, dampened the viewing experience, though commendable turns by Puri and Azmi in capturing their disillusionment and lost dreams, and representation of the mileau, compensated for these lapses.
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama