Mukti Bhawan: An elegiac refrain for salvation

Film: Mukti Bhawan

Cast: Adil Hussain, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Lalit Behl

Director: Subhashush Bhutiani

Fledgeling (he is in his early twenties) Director Subhashish Bhutiani’s premier effort at full-length cinema is simple yet blindingly profound. Mukti Bhawan a.k.a Hotel Salvalation – and the title speaks for itself – is a place where people go to gain ‘moksha’. It’s a dingy tenement that is allotted to the believer whose time has come (as per his own belief of course).

‘You can stay for 15 days only’ informs Mishraji, the caretaker to 77 year old Daya (Lalit Behl) but Daya’s son(Adil Hussain) is not amused and asks ‘What if his time is not up within the allotted 15 days?’ Bhutiani plays around with that question for the rest of the film allowing for familial disturbances and career related crisis situations and eventually resolves it so beautifully that you don’t even question the contrivance inherent in the solution.

Belief is paramount here and anyone who watches this film is likely to be swayed by the sheer gentleness of the persuasion inherent in the telling. The camerawork is beautifully poignant allowing for the story to unfold with unstilted ease. Benares has a far more sagely presence in the film – different from what we’ve seen and experienced before.

Death is an everyday affair in this city of temples on the banks of the Ganges and though morbid in its fixation, there’s a slim ray of hope in the manner in which the grandfather helps set free his grand-daughter from the shackles of conformity that bind her and in the friendship he strikes with a widow who has been waiting for her time to come for 15 years. There’s humor within the morbidity too. The narrative doesn’t bother to make waves. It’s serene and profound- certainly a salvation for those who have been routinely sucked in by the generic fervor of the trashy Bollywood film.

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Free Press Journal