With limited movie options, my movie gang decided on “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” playing in town these days. Used to seeing India portrayed in very poor light by foreign film makers, I was not really expecting to come home happy . The film starts with an assortment of wrinkled and crinkled English retirees who are at a bit of a loose end in their lives. One of them a recently retired Judge has an agenda and wants to visit India with a specific purpose but the rest just happen to come to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by pure chance.
The story line is predictable and reminiscent of EM Forster’s novels, where a group of dysfunctional British tourists land up tying the loose ends of their lives in a strange and exotic place. Predictably the hotel is not what it was set out to be, and the tourists already exposed to the inefficiencies of an Indian flight that never took off and a bus ride into Jaipur are shocked with the in your face colour, clamour and crowds that are India. It is strange how as the movie progresses, the excessive crowds and filth are toned down with the final scene ending with an efficiently run retirement home managed with British thoroughness by Muriel Donnelly, a former housekeeper, played to perfection by Dame Maggie Smith.
The movie is far from perfect though – the flight to Jaipur was cancelled because of bad weather conditions but the group landed up in a Jaipur that was decidedly sunny and bright.
The bus that the group travelled in was not the only mode of transport available – they could have well taken the train which is far more comfortable or even a luxury bus.
The servant who befriends Mrs. Donnelly ( or is it the other way round?) was decidedly not from Jaipur. Surely they could have got someone more authentic?
Sunny calling his mother “mummyji” sounds facetious while Mummyji (Lilette Dubey who is now getting typecast) herself, seemed too “tiptop” i.e. sophisticated to be the mother of a so called hic manager.
Considering that the guests had booked in advance, even the most basic hotelier would have arranged to make the rooms ready for his guests and not had beds covered in dust and dust covers.
But India was just a backdrop for the main story – dealing with old age. Being old and being alone is a problem we all have to face. For this group of British retirees India was a good option but what about Indian old people? With many parents being abandoned by their children who have gone overseas for better prospects, and the breakdown of the traditional Indian joint family, we too will have to face this problem.
With an excellent cast ( Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson) and crisp dialogue which has you laughing in parts, is a must see for all to have an idea of what can happen in the future and even though the theme is depressing, I did come home with a smile.
As Sunny (Dev Patel), the manager says ” it all turns out right in the end and if it isn’t right yet, it is not the end!”