Written by Emily Murry
Images courtesy of the Official Website
Hotel Salvation (Mukti Bhawan) isn’t your Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but that’s part of what makes this film so lovely. It’s raw and human, a beautiful display of Hindu culture and the emotional scope of man.
Hotel Salvation, aka a Father and Son Death Vacation
The film follows Rajiv who reluctantly goes with his father, Daya, to the town of Varanasi and its Hotel Salvation where Daya wishes to die. Yep, you read that right. This is a hotel that admits those nearing death to live out their last days before their spirit leaves this life. Although, apart from the hotel’s location next to the holy Ganges River, you wouldn’t be able to tell its redeeming qualities what with its peeling paint, barren rooms, and occasional cockroach sightings.
For Rajiv, who’s teetering between his excessive workload, a tense relationship with his wife, and a daughter who’s getting married soon, his father’s sudden request and feeling of impending death has come at an inopportune time. Regardless, Rajiv still accompanies Daya on this spiritual journey.
Sentimental Truth on the Banks of the Ganges
Hotel Salvation is the feature length directorial debut of Shubhashish Bhutiani. This 26-year-old director delves into themes and deep emotions one wouldn’t expect from such a young filmmaker. It first premiered at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, where it received a 10 minute standing ovation, and went on to receive many awards. Not a bad feat for your first film.
From start to finish, Hotel Salvation feels calm and cool like the Mother Ganges herself. It’s filled with repeated and beautifully crafted long shots that allow you to stop and sense what each character is experiencing. The film’s colloquial dialogue also makes the character’s emotions seem more real. The story doesn’t feel contrived because the sentiments ring so true.
Adil Hussain stars as Rajiv. He shines in his slight moments of hesitation and anxious mannerisms. The story alone is great, but Hussain brings those emotions to life that make up the heart of the film. His strained relationship with Daya, played by Lalit Behl, is humorous and heartbreaking.
The Journeys We Take on our Way to Die
While Hotel Salvation appears to be a movie about death, I found it more as a study on life’s emotions in all their complexities. I think the director himself put it best when he said,
“To understand other people, all we need is empathy. I find a strong connection to my characters’ emotions. If the audience also feels the same, it goes beyond geographical boundaries.” (Forbes India)
Regardless of whether or not you believe in the tenets of Hinduism, this film brings out emotions that we all share. Maybe learning how to wade through those emotions like love, a sense of duty, overwhelming despair, regret, joy, heartbreak, forgiveness, and hope is all part of the path to salvation.
Bhutiani has done an excellent job at going beyond those geographical boundaries to give us greater understanding into our own emotions and journeys through the lens of another’s. Rent Hotel Salvation now on Amazon and see for yourself this incredible debut.