MUKTI BHAVAN Movie Review: An art house film that refrains from peddling India’s underbelly

 

2.5/5

 

It’s Indian exotica sans an obvious attempt at peddling India’s underbelly to grab the instant attention of the festival circuit.

 

Shot on real locations, the bit stagy slice of life drama has ‘art-house’ written all over it. The credible performances by actors, the near total absence of crafty cinematic flourishes and overt ideological pontification and philosophical discourse make it an endearing and artistically well-integrated tale. Shubhashish Bhutiani has a good understanding of the art and craft of cinema and knows how to walk the minefield.

 

The film opens with a dream sequence.  A 77-year-old retired teacher Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl) dreams of his childhood in a village and his mother calling him. He wakes up and concludes that it’s his time to leave the world. He will like to die in Banaras, the city of salvation. His extremely busy son Rajiv (Adil Hussain), and his daughter-in-law (Geetanjali Kulkarni) try to persuade him to stay. He does not yield.  His granddaughter (Palomi Ghosh) dotes on him and will go by whatever is his wish. Dayanand performs ‘godaan’, an important pre-death Hindu ritual. Rajiv and he leave for Banaras by road in a shared taxi. They reach Banaras and take up residence in a dharmshala (choultry) called Mukti Bhavan, which is located close to one of the ghats of Banaras. It’s a place where old people stay before bidding their final adieu to the mortal world. The residents of the place are good people and though it’s the place for the dying, it’s more like an old-age home, unpainted and dingy like most of the residences in the densely populated areas around the ghats of Banaras accessible only through narrow lanes. Rajeev dutiful serves his irascible father in spite of being under various pressures. Old wounds are opened and healed. There is also a false alarm but Dayanand survives. Rajeev leaves and returns later after hearing of his father’s death.

 

There is noting mournful about Mukti Bhavan. It’s life as usual for its guests. They watch their favorite TV programmes, bathe in the Ganga, occasionally drink ‘bhang’ laced lassi, do their ‘anulom-vilom & bhastrika pranayama’, take part in funeral celebrations, and wait to die. The helmer, in spite of obvious temptations, largely refrains from heavily underlining the exotic elements. It’s more of a father-son story.

 

Is it an extra-ordinary film or a classic? No. It’s just a competently made art-house film.

 

2.5/5

 

Writer, Producer, Director: Shubhashish Bhutiani, Cast: Adil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh, Navnindra Behl, Anil K. Rastogi, Music: Tajdar Junaid, Cinemtography: David Huwiler, Michael McSweeney, Editing: Manas Mittal


Rajesh Kumar Singh

@khulkebolo @neelnabh

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