Reviews - Hotel Salvation
Reviewed By Roger Gook
It follows Daya, a 77 year-old man whose self imposed journey towards death leads him to the eponymous hotel, accompanied by his sceptical yet respectful son, Rajiv. Located in the holy city of Varanasi, the hotel borders the banks of the Ganges and is a sanctuary where the elderly can reside while they await their departure from the world of the living.
Paradoxically, both its atmosphere and the guests themselves are cheery and vibrant, perhaps too much to be believable. Along with the son, the film invites the viewer to embrace death as natural occurrence rather than a cause for torment and pain.
Visually this humanity is reflected in a multitude of charming everyday scenes. Sometimes we see beautiful landscapes, sometimes boisterous streets or markets filled with people in kaleidoscopic saris and dresses, or families and friends sharing home cooked meals or admiring dazzling light shows over the Ganges.
Many of the substantial shifts occurring in Indian society are subtly touched upon: globalisation (through an iconic Pepsi bottle), digitalisation, generational gaps and female emancipation. Writer/director Bhutiani draws a poetic portrait of a modern India, gently unveiling the strain between technology and tradition.
In one scene Rajiv's phone interrupts meditation practise with the priest, while his sister announces her refusal of the arranged marriage over a fuzzy and glitchy Skype session. Yet the film never dwells on this internal conflict, always presenting its subject with humour and an infectious sense of optimism.
The strength of the film is the assured telling of a universal story in a simple way, but this simplicity is perhaps a weakness. The old people are fit and healthy but suddenly die, the crowds and chaos of India are strangely absent, the banks of the Ganges are quiet and clean. But the quality of the storytelling, the acting and the photography seduce you into accepting the film as a fairytale of human warmth and love.
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