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Mukti Bhawan  : Humour In The Departure Lounge
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Friday, April 7, 2017
Drama
Shubhashish Bhutiani
Adil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh, Navninder Behl, Anil Rastogi

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 come through.

 

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.

 

With pranayam 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.

 

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author

 

 

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