Mukti Bhavan – In Search of Salvation

Mukti Bhavan and Masaan – now make companion pieces of sorts – Varanasi and the River Ganga playing a major role in both movies.

Mukti Bhavan titled Hotel Salvation for international releases is a powerful, poignant and bitter-sweet tale of the patriarch of a middle-class family and his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in his quest for salvation.

In Varanasi/Benares/Kashi – remains a hotel called Mukti Bhavan where those who seek their final journey find an abode. Our lead character Daya played by Lalit Behl is a 77-year old man who has lived a life, well-spent, he sees a dream that foretells his death and he decides to leave for Varanasi to spend his last days. His son Rajiv played brilliantly by Adil Hussain seems to work in some kind of bank or investment firm and is seen chasing sales targets. Rajiv’s wife Lata played by Gitanjali Kulkarni and daughter Sunitha played by the elegant Palomi Ghosh also add to the perfect portrayal of the slightly upper middle-class family structure. They own a car as well as a Bajaj scooter.

Rajiv manages to secure a fortnight’s leave and accompanies Daya to Varanasi and they check-in to Mukti Bhavan. The caretaker Mishra ji isĀ  played by Anil K. Rastogi who has some brilliant lines – “Death is a process.” “The souls here reside within the body. Once the body dies what purpose does the soul serve here.”

At one juncture, Daya falls sick and everyone feels he will die. An elderly lady at Mukti Bhavan played by Navinidra Behl adds grace and charm to the tale, she quips – ‘I have been waiting all my life here to die.” Daya apologises to his son for scuttling his son’s talents and dreams of being a poet. Some real good father-son scenes and I am sure a lot of us guys will relate to these scenes. Daya survives, Latha and Sunitha also make a surprise visit. The 15 day period comes to an end and the caretaker says – ‘Register in a new name and continue to wait for salvation.’

Daya finds a friend and companion in Vimala, then Vimala dies and Daya narrates a moving obituary that he has written for her. Daya advises Rajiv to return to his regular life.

Do watch this movie to figure out what happens to Daya.

At times, amidst all the drivel and leave your ‘mind at home’ cinema that all the woods bombard us with – small little gems like these arrive and make us fall in love with cinema and real characters. By the time the movie ended, I was quite emotional, been some time since I cried after watching a movie; Mukti Bhavan makes me think a lot. My obsession with death, salvation and redemption continue. There are no answers, neither are there any new questions. Celebrate death, embrace it, that which needs to happen will happen.

Full marks to director – Subhashish Bhutiani for an assured, confident and meaningful debut.

 

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Patterns of the Night

It usually starts,
At about 2 AM,
A moan issues,
I dread it,
For I know,
She is not well,
I get up,
Switch on the light,
She is in a drowsy state,
In a weird state,
Between sedated sleep,
And a feverish pitch,
That asks her to get up.

I have to hold her steady,
As she gets up,
Usually she will complain,
Utter some lines –
“Why am I still alive?”
Then she will cough,
The phlegm flows,
At times, the fever,
Will cause her to vomit.
I wipe the mess clean,
Put a new maxie on her.

Then offer her a hot decoction,
Of herbs that come in handy,
It will have a bit of medicine,
That puts her to sleep,
A deep sleep,
And I will stay awake,
Sitting staring into the abyss,
Wondering on the unbearable,
Lightness of the futility,
Of this existence,
This facade called life.

At some point beyond 6 AM,
She will awaken,
The pain would have gone,
But the fever would remain,
Over the course of the day,
She will continue to be monitored,
The day will turn to noon,
The noon to evening,
And the noon to night,
And then in the night,
The pattern will repeat again!
The cycle of pain,
Suffering, discomfort and medication,
Will continue all over again.

No light, no darkness,
No sunshine or moonrise,
No joy, no sorrow,
No blessing, no curse,
Like one pointless,
Bagpiper blowing his bagpipe,
In the darkness of the mist-filled night,
I go on, till how long??
The patterns of the night….
The patterns of the night,
They are never ever right,
When will I ever end this fight?
The patterns of the night!

— Mahesh

Appa

I never knew,
The warmth or the love,
That a father would shower,
On his child.

Growing up as a loner,
I would always,
Hate people who would ask me,
Where is your father?

I could never answer the question,
Because I frankly,
Did not know the answer.
I just had a hazy memory.

Of a very fair-skinned man,
With a thick moustache.
Those were all the memories.
That I had.

Growing up in a relative’s house,
One could never confide,
One’s innermost secrets.
Amma is amma and some things,

Well boys cannot say to their mums.
Nor to their sisters,
The joy of coming first in class,
Winning an essay competition.

Participating in the quiz-competition,
Coming first, getting a prize,
From the principal,
These are all cherished moments.

I wished you were there,
Next to me; cheering my small victories.
Instead when I finally meet you,
What do I find????

A demon – nothing more and nothing less,
Just a rank nuisance-causing individual,
Who never cared about his family.
You knew only one God – ‘the bottle’.

There have been times,
When I wanted to thrash you,
And kick the living daylights,
Out of your drunken stupor.

I kept calm,
Admitted you in rehab,
But of what avail?
You ran away!

It has been over four years now,
You don’t realize,
The irrepairable damage,
That you have inflicted on me.

I write this with immense sadness.
When my friends have,
Their dads as their heroes,
What do I have?

Nothing….!!!