This film offers us Mukti from a spate of bad films!
‘Mukti Bhawan’ is literally Hotel Salvation. A place in Benaras where the elderly renounce everything and go to die. One such dad stubbornly insists that it is his time. His grown up son is mildly irritated with the decision and takes him to Benaras. What follows is a brilliant, funny, life affirming tale about death.
A flawless cast led by a superb script brings smiles, understanding nods as well as tears effortlessly to the audience. How can a story about a place where the elderly go to die bring many smiles to your face? Watch this film and you will know why.
Adil Hussain, an actor who is truly a masterclass in acting (except perhaps his ghastly role in Parched) once again proves that he is everyman - irritated by his ageing father’s stubborn insistence that he move to Mukti Bhawan, a hotel for those who want to die in the holy city of Benaras. In spite of a boss who does not want to go on leave, he accompanies his dad, stays with him, cooks, cleans and takes care of him, at first with resignation and then begins to understand his old man.
Geetanjali Kulkarni stunned us with her fabulous performance in the award winning film Court, plays Adil’s wife in the film. She is a typical housewife, cooking, taking care of her grown up daughter, her husband and her father in law. She too does not like the old man leaving and tries to persuade him stay. She doesn’t like her husband going off to Benaras with the father and leaving the daughter and her behind. She is so natural, you can actually smell the cream she puts on in a practised ritual before going to bed. She is so amazing, you have see her to believe her faux anger with her husband when he appreciates someone else’s tea, her tears, her calm acceptance of rituals…
The dad, other old people who are residents at Mukti Bhawan, Mishra-ji the head of the hotel, Sadguru the errand boy at the hotel, and Adil’s interactions with these people are very funny. Despite the fact that everyone there is waiting (or hoping) to die
Adil: (fed up of watching his dad crack jokes about obituaries with other residents and do yoga) You can predict death?
Mishraji: I’m not telling you about your dad?
Adil: Why not?
Mishraji: It’s a gift. It might go away…
Adil has to deal with his dad who has moved to that dingy hotel to die, but seems to get demanding: I want better food, want milk in the morning, I want to get fresh air… You grin the darkness of the theater if you have dealt with an irascible older parent or grandparent who demands the oddest of things at the oddest of times…
There is smell of death all around, and yet there is sunshine when the old people sit and joke, decorate their rooms as if it were not really impermanent, or even how eager they are to watch daily soaps on tv…
My only complaint about this film is that it is suspiciously ‘exotic India’ because it starts out as a festival film. But there is such a gentleness about the film, and even the tourist trappy ‘Ganga Aarati’ is shot beautifully from the point of view of ‘high’ grandpa, his old lady friend and the grand daughter…
Watch this life affirming film about death because the cast is great, the humor is omnipresent and you will come away with your heart in your hand and tears in your eyes.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)