Mukti Bhawan for the longest time has been on my to-watch list ever since I chanced upon its trailer on social media. Having finally laid my hands on it from a pirated website courtesy a friend, I started treasuring the film from its very first frame. An old man declaring his wish to breathe his last in Varanasi and an overworked son being dragged to the holy city to await his father’s death is the ground work for this masterfully crafted work of director Shubhashish Bhutiani.
Mukti Bhawan is possibly the best octogenarian movie that explores a man’s fragility at its best. While one man awaits a call from the beyond so that he can attain salvation, another gets torn by the calls of his boss. Adil Hussain as Rajiv shows us all the side to our fathers we are never revealed. From cooking salt-less food to grumpily fetching milk for his father, through the movie he transitions between a dutiful son to a loving son who sobs himself to sleep by his father’s bedside when his father is sick. His vulnerabilities are laid bare in the haphazardly coloured, luxury denied shabby rooms of Mukti Bhawan where a guest can stay for only 15 days. The immortal cinematic charm of Varanasi and its ghats are revealed in folds between the father son driven narrative.
LaIit Behl does the immaculate task of making us realize that not all 76-year-olds become god loving individuals when they feel they are close to answering the last call even while in Varanasi. He dismisses that by being as curious about death as a young boy. He again is not devoid of last wishes, poetry dreaming, lust for companionship or sarcasm. But he does wear the wise old man’s hat when it comes to knowing his granddaughter’s wishes and his son’s lack of relaxation. He even comes face to face with his lacking as a father which drove his son to kill his poetic side. These small reflections are made through raw conversations and nimble downcast eyes of Hussain and Behl when they are cramped in the small rooms of the hotel. The realistic portrayal of emotional fragilities an unlikely show for Hussain’s character for he is a man with peppered hair and painted pencil moustache. He works hard to retain his clients but chokes when he assures his boss of returning to work soon. The taciturn use of dialogues reveals slices of life we all go through in life.
With silence for most part and Tajdar Junaid’s soul stringing music adding strength to the narrative, the film gets served to us in a delectable platter. For those looking for a film that captures the eccentricities of an Indian family like a son hugging his old father, a girl riding his grandfather’s scooter and a wife telling her husband when to temper the chilies for dal, this is the perfect concoction. The movie blooms in its lack of Bollywood gimmicks to make you cry despite the revolving around death, family ties and loss. Mukti Bhawan or Hotel Salvation gives you salvation in its self styled heartwarming way.