Mukti Bhawan Movie Review: An Engaging Tragicomedy About Life And Death
If you are tired of the same old dance and song routine, larger than life heroes and heroines cavorting in foreign locations in films and crave some 'shuddh desi'fare, Mukti Bhawan, which released this Friday, should surely be on your weekend menu. When Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl), a retired school teacher, claims that his time has come and wishes to live his last days at the Mukti Bhawan (there is actually such a place in Varanasi) on the banks of Ganga, his perpetually hassled son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) accompanies him to the fleabag hotel, which is inhabited by people awaiting death and 'moksha'. How the initially reluctant and exasperated Rajiv and his wife Lata (Geetanjali Kulkarni) and daughter Sunita (Palomi Ghosh) deal with this development in their lives, forms the rest of the plot. As for the performances, every member of the cast is near flawless. Adil Hussain is the endearing everyman, who is stuck between a demanding father and an equally demanding boss, who makes his presence known through regular phone calls. Rajiv's exasperation as he tries to deal with his boss and his father at the same time is equally humorous and relatable. Lalit Behl, who had played the creepy patriarch in Titli, is a delight to watch as Dayanand and the sequences between the father and the son are guaranteed to make you guffaw as well as bring a lump to your throat with consistent regularity. Geetanjali, who had impressed everyone with her role in the award-winning 'Court', delivers another powerfully restrained performance while Anil Rastogi as the 'paan'chewing manager Mishra-ji is quite entertaining with his wry humour and practical approach towards life and death. Apart from the performances, it is the cinematography that hooks you. Usually, whenever Bollywood films have featured Benaras, they have focused on the colourful 'Ganga Aarti', but Mukti Bhawan shows Varanasi in its stark rawness. Varanasi may be one of the oldest cities in the world, but there is nothing fancy about the place. Mukti Bhawan has its share of rats and cockroaches and the place is unhygienic enough to make anyone fall ill, as observed by Lata. If the trailer of the film made you assume that 'Mukti Bhawan'only deals with the concept of mortality and the acceptance of death, you would be wrong for there is such a beautifully layered father-son relationship woven in the narrative that it will make your heart go out to the characters. There is nothing caricaturish or cinematic about the characters. The sequences between Dayanand and Rajiv are absolutely real and relatable and there are moments which may remind you of your own dealings with ailing or aged parents/grandparents. However, on the flip side, the film seems to move at a languid pace in places and there may be moments, which provoke impatience. Nevertheless, Shubhashish Bhutiani's directorial debut is a touching fare worth watching.