It happens only in India.
But happily, Indians have a sense of humour too.
So when ageing father Daya announces that he wants to
die in the holy city of Varanasi and attain salvation which is an accepted practice
in unique India, it could’velaid the grounds for morbid cinema.
Luckily, director Shubhashish Bhutiani values humour
as the only ingredient to serve gritty fare. He does that by bringing
chirpiness into familial relationships and new friendships that subtly tug at
the heartstrings but also prompt a frequent smile.It’s not ho-ho laughter which
would’ve been inappropriate given the circumstances but black comedy that makes
a point when it has to. For example, when Vimla, a new acquaintance who’s been
waiting for years to die, serves Daya and his son Rajiv a welcome meal,she
casually dismisses the rats in her little room. There’s warmth in the ambience
and no grotty visual to put off the viewerbut the condition of those rooms does
A hotel for customers who check in to die may sound incredulous.
But Bhutiani has an acting cast that helps him tell his substantial tale with
credibility. Daya is the annoyingly demanding elder who wants water in the
middle of the night or fresh milk early morning and interrupts Rajiv in the
midst of his conversation with his office. But he’s also the grandfather
Rajiv’s daughter Sunita shares secrets with and the father-in-law that Rajiv’s
wife Lata would like to take back home.
in the Ganga and the evening aarti on
the banks, this close look at Varanasi is definitely the exotic India that the
West feeds on. But that doesn’t make it any less watchable for a home audience
that relishes a slice of real life served with a welcome lightness.
Adil Hussain as dutiful son Rajiv, has the agility to
convey slight annoyance at his father while he adores him enough to keep him
company at Mukti Bhawan. Lalit Behl as
Daya, his real life wife Navindra Behl as Vimla, Geetanjali Kulkarni as the
daughter-in-law and Palomi Ghosh as Sunita keep the perfect balance between heartfelt
emotion and light-hearted humour. Let’s not forget Anil Rastogi as Mishraji,
the hotel manager who can bend rules as only Indians do.
With rats, cockroaches and dusty buffaloes, this is
also a film that hints at the pressing need for a Swachch Bharat.
For a well-made film that’s as grounded and warm as
freshly baked bread, Mukti Bhawan gets a 3.5* rating.
Journalist & Author