Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) is a film based on relationships and family written and directed by Shubhashish Bhutiani, and produced by Sajida Sharma, Sanjay Bhutiani& Shubhashish Bhutiani. The cast includes Adil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh, Navnindra Behl, and Anil K Rastogi in lead roles.
By Noyon Jyoti Parasara
A 77-year old believes his time has come and tells his son to take him to Varanasi, where he would die peacefully. And yet as taxi driver taking them to the Varanasi speeds, the old man asks him to slow down lest they die in an accident. The humour is subtle and effective. And there are multiple such scenes when a ready to die person is scared of death that might surprise him. You see, being prepared to accept death does not come easy.
Mukti Bhawan delves deep into Hindu beliefs of salvation in death. And in doing so, it not just celebrates death but brings out some nuanced comedic situations. But more importantly, it surprises in detailing of ethos and ability to touch emotional depth.
Mukti Bhawan, or Hotel Salvation, peeks into a father-son relationship. Lalit Bahl plays the septuagenarian who one fine morning insists that it is time for him to head to Kashi even as his son (Adil Hussain) finds it difficult to accept his decision for multiple reasons, none of it being his emotion attachment with his father. He is a middle-class middle-aged man trying hard make a living, glued to the phone even between meals to try and meet targets set by the boss. And his father’s insistence irritates him to no end. Yet, like the good son he agrees to be with his father as he awaits death; because ‘moksh’ is achieved only in Varanasi!
In the process, they rediscover the joy in their relationship. Somewhere there, Mukti Bhawan might remind you of Nebraska. Quite possibly the director may have drawn inspiration from the 2013 American film which dealt with a father-son relationship too. However, Multi Bhawan is completely fresh in milieu and approach.
Director Shubhashish Bhutiani, merely 25 years of age, shows tremendous maturity in understanding complex equations and portraying them through his screenplay. This is his first feature although he had earlier made a short film Kush, which had made to Venice Film Festival and he shows immense promise. Backed by a shoestring budget, he never compromises on his aesthetics. There he is helped by cinematographers David Huwiler & Michael McSweeney.
And to his luck, he has a cast which is effortlessly brilliant. Lalit Bahl, who was earlier seen in Titli, is remarkably consistent throughout as the old father who does not listen to anyone. Adil Hussain as the hassled son adds a degree of believability to his character and the screenplay. Geetanjali Kulkarni as the inquisitive wife is delightful. Palomi Ghosh plays Adil Hussain’s daughter who wants to live life on her own terms but is afraid of expressing that to her father.
Also to his aid is a beautiful background score by Tajdar Junaid. The music just lingers on, reminding one of Gustavo Santaolalla’s work in Dhobi Ghaat.
There are evidently lodges in Varanasi where people await ‘moksh’. That’s a crazy enough idea for a film. Shubhashish brings in a level of warmth. This independent piece of cinema is a winner throughout. In between smiles, it might actually leave you with a tear or two, while making you ponder over death and how you might react to it. Beautiful.