Mukti Bhawan (Hindi) Hotel Salvation (English)?Engrossing watch

MUMBAI: Mukti Bhawan is a film about that aspect of Hindu philosophy with which few from generation now would be familiar, especially the metro born and bred.

The city of Varanasi, considered to be the spiritual capital of India, draws millions of Hindus who come for a dip in the holy river Ganga to wash their sins as well as to pay obeisance at some of the legendary temples. Some also will that their last rites be performed on the banks of Ganga.

Mukti Bhawan traces the story of a hostel in Varanasi where old people check in awaiting death because it is believed that to die in Varanasi is to attain 'moksha'. Dying in Varanasi is said to end the circle of life and frees one from rebirth. It is a means to attain salvation. Death here is a celebration, not something to brood about or feel sad.

The character of Adil Hussain?s father, played by Lalit Behl, keeps getting these dreams about his final day being near. He decides to spend rest of his remaining days in Varanasi and die there. Adil has no alternative but to take father to Varanasi. They check into this dingy hostel with 12 rooms. The place is managed by a worldly-wise man, the character of Anil Rastogi. While the rooms are let out for 15 days max, Rastogi extends the stay of some he knows will take longer but die in Varanasi eventually.

Once there, it is each to his own. Nothing is on the house or served on a platter. Adil cooks, fills water and generally tends to Lalit who, at best times, is grumpy and stubborn. Adil is pulled between his duties to his father and his office targets; his office boss is almost always calling up and reminding him of his targets.

Lalit then meets a companion in another occupant of the hostel, played by Navnindra Behl. She came to the place with her husband 18 years back, he passed away and she has stayed back awaiting her turn. While Lalit has found a soul mate, there is another chemistry taking place. That is between father and son. They both start feeling a bond between them, they rediscover each other.

Lalit falls ill while at the hostel and everybody has given up hopes. Adil even asks his wife, played by Geetanjali Kulkarni, and daughter, played by Palomi Ghosh, to come for the last visit.

What is best about Mukti Bhawan is that it packs subtle humour all the way, even during serious moments. Despite dealing with religious philosophy, it does not preach. In fact, that is only the backbone around which this film about relations and emotions is built. While it tracks the holy city of Varanasi, it does not try to glamourize it. The film is more about relations than Varanasi so much that even the Ganga aarti gets only limited footage.

The background music is soothing and does not intrude. Cinematography is of high order.

Cleverly scripted and directed with a purpose, the film keeps you engrossed for all its 102 minutes. The film has excellent performances by Aadil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Navnindra Behl, Palomi Ghosh, Geetanjali Kulkarni and Anil Rastogi; all of them are restrained and natural. The background score and cinematography are of high order.

Producers: Sanjay Bhutiani, Sajida Sharma.
Direction: Shubhashish Bhutiani.
Cast: Adil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh Navnindra Behl, Anil K. Rastogi.

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