Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) Review
How often do you introspect the deepest certainties of life? Rather, how often are you forced into doing so?
It’s an unquestionable truth that if you emerge from your mother’s womb, you have to leave for heavenly abode. There’s no denying that, only delaying. No one can really come to terms with parting from their dear ones. Living together for years, almost renders us incapable of orienting ourselves in congruity with this truth. Years of togetherness makes it difficult for us to let go. I am writing all these because a film, titled Mukti Bhawan has sent me spinning, into an introspective quagmire.
Debutante director Shubhashish Bhutiani has presented us with a poignantly enthralling sojourn through the clogged and cluttered lanes of Varanasi. But, the film is not so much concerned with the city, as it is with the man. Adil Hussain’s character Rajeev is an epitome of the common family man, stuck somewhere between being responsible and recalcitrant. He accompanies his father, who thinks his ‘time has come’, to Varanasi, and put up at Mukti Bhawan, a shabby and decrepit lodge meant for old people, living their last days. Both of them spend days at the city of the dead, waiting for the father to die. Sometimes, experiencing is far more real and impactful than expressing. The torment Rajeev goes through all the time – his job is jeopardized, his daughter suddenly calls off her wedding, his father waiting to die – has, as if, been captured through the city of Varanasi itself. The decaying ghats, the melancholia enveloping the city, funeral pyres everywhere – all these have served as pointers towards the tempest raging inside Rajeev. And how better could Adil Hussain get? I cannot stress enough on how much the industry is missing out on conscious underutilization of such an actor.
The film begins with a dream sequence of Rajeev’s father and ends with his death. The fact that in Varanasi, death is celebrated and rejoiced, is also an allegory for the way Rajeev must have felt after his father’s death. Death is, per se, the saddest thing that could happen to a dear one, but if with that death, a new harmony is introduced in your life, then it indeed ushers in joy. He allowed his daughter to call off the wedding, slated against her wishes, and also gave in to the fact that she rides a scooter, against which he had previously objected. A renaissance took place in the father Rajeev, as the son Rajeev was euthanized.
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The way the camera has conjured up captivating images of Varanasi, the narrative punctuated by picturesque cutaway shots, and the way Bhutiani has used a city as a pivot to tell an utterly human story, is admirable beyond words. In Hotel Salvation (English name for Mukti Bhawan), it is the son who is actually salvaged and the father just acts an enabler. Expectations surge immeasurably for Bhutiani’s next.