Directed by Shubhashish Bhutiani
Thoughtfully written and directed by debutant Shubhashish Bhutiani, “Hotel Salvation” can be considered last year’s peak international drama of the Indian cinema, just like "The Lunchbox" was in 2013.
Playing father and son, Lalit Behl and Adil Hussain are Daya and Rajiv, respectively. Haunted by a recurrent dream, 77-year-old Daya truly believes his time has come. He announces his intention to live his last days in the holy city of Varanasi at the Mukti Bhawan Hotel, a guesthouse where people can attain salvation for their sins and die in peace. The one accompanying him is Rajiv, who reluctantly leaves his job for an undetermined period of time. Besides being confronted with pressures from work, also his wife, Lata (Geetanjali Kulkarni), shows some impatience with the absence, wanting him to return and perform his duties at home. Only his daughter, Sunita (Palomi Ghosh), who grew very attached to her grandfather, seems to completely understand and accept the situation.
Once Rajiv starts taking care of his father, he grows crankier. Firstly, he’s not used to the new routines, and secondly, he doesn’t think his father is about to die. He’s neither comfortable far from his wife and daughter, nor leaving his stubborn father alone. Confused and divided, he dwells in this dilemma for some time. In the meantime, Daya gradually slips away this state of melancholy and blooms again, especially due to the presence of a new friend, Vimla (Navnindra Behl, Lalit’s real wife), a 75-year-old widow who keeps waiting for the death for 18 years.
Managing to escape the traditional melodramas, Bhutiani leans on the arthouse, which doesn’t hamper him from capturing the warmth and simplicity of the characters, as well as the colors that illustrate the magnificence of the Indian landscapes. However, not every scene was perfectly framed and a few shots were in need of aesthetic improvement.
Engaging in a different kind of tension, he crafts a modest yet spiritually inspiring story where duty, friendship, family ties, and loss are subjected to a dignified meditation. The subtle humor also fits well and the film, culturally enriching, ends up celebrating life, exactly as it should be.