Thursday, July 5, 2018

Shubhashish Bhutiani's HOTEL SALVATION explores life, death and family in India

When the grandfather of the family suddenly announces that he is soon going to die and wants to make his final pilgrimage to a holy city on the banks of the Ganges River, his adult son -- an overworked accountant or financial planner, from the sound of things -- first tries to convince his father otherwise but then finally agrees to accompany him on the trip.

From this unusual premise comes a movie -- HOTEL SALVATION, co-written (with Asad Hussain) and directed by first-time full-length filmmaker, Shubhashish Bhutiani, shown at right) -- that offers up almost all the usual and expected results: father-son arguments, followed by some bonding, family problems and relationships brought to the fore and then solved. Surely you know the routine by now.

What makes this movie a bit different is all the detail that arrives via its sub-continent setting: the religion, the life, the culture and the cuisine in which we're steeped.

The immediate family (shown below) provides our main characters: the grandfather Daya (Lalit Behl, center), father Rajiv (Adil Hussan, left), mother Lata (Geetanjali Kulkarni, near right) and daughter Sunita (, far right).

Once Daya and Rajiv have reached their Ganges destination and its titular hotel, we meet more diverse and interesting characters such as the hotel proprietor and a widow woman (, below, right), who, it turns out, has been waiting quite a few years for her time to die.

Along the way we get a number of light philosophical discussions about life, death and religion (this is definitely Salvation-lite), some family history to sort out, and interesting religious practices such as bathing a corpse in the Ganges and then cremating it, drinking "holy" water from that same river (yikes!) and donating a cow (wow!).

Interestingly enough, what looks like the film's climax arrives in the middle, but then we're suddenly up and running again. And if the movie -- except for its location -- takes us nowhere we've not been previously, in one culture or another, its actual finale provides a nice mix of sorrow and an odd sort of joy. It is both predictable and moving.

From Film Movement, in Hindi with English subtitles and running 100 minutes, Hotel Salvation hits DVD and digital this coming Tuesday, July 10 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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