Film: 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'; Cast: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel and Lillette Dubey; Director: John Madden; Rating: ****
Is old age the wait for the inevitable? But this inevitable was staring even in youth! Why is it that we get tired the older we get - tired to try new things. And what if circumstances force us to do exactly that? Will we rediscover the zest for life or will we give up without a fight because we believe we're too old to fight?
'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' (TBEMH) by 'Shakespeare In Love' director John Madden confronts these questions in a hilarious, adventurous, light-hearted and yet poignant way. It is one of the best 'exotic' films to have come into theatres in a longtime.
Seven British retirees 'outsource' their retirement to a reasonably priced and exotic hotel in Jaipur, India. Here their dreams of final peaceful days are shattered as they find that the truth about this retirement home had been 'photo-shopped'.
Instead of leisure, they are confronted with their own pasts and prejudices and each is forced to discover the meaning of life, a new.
The first and most important thing you'll notice is its incredible wit. The writing, based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, is simply stunning with wit that is hilarious without being patronising.
Sample this - an old woman says: 'I don't even buy green bananas. I can't plan so far ahead.' Another says: 'What I can't pronounce, I don't eat.' Yet another comment: 'I'm your wife. Have we met?'
Lines like these pop at regular intervals invigorating the soul of a cineaste desperate for such intelligent dialogues in cinema.
The focus of the film, and all its sub plots, is clearly age and time. Time becomes a metaphor to entice viewers to look inside themselves and find their own relationship with time and age. Thus, it might be a film situated in the stories of 'old' people, in reality, it is about all of us finding ourselves. It will have a resonance across ages.
The script is extremely intelligent and manages to find the common between India and Britain e.g. when Tom Wilkinson plays cricket with kids on the street. That scene is meant not just to bridge the gap between Britain and India, but also between age and youth.
It also makes a comment on many evils plaguing the county, like the existence of caste hierarchy and the opposition to homosexuality in a very staid and gentle manner.
The casting is a charm. If the world were not so preoccupied with youth and beauty, one would have called this one of the best ensemble ever.
And a casting coup it indeed is, not of stars in an 'Avengers' sort of way, but real actors who breathe so much life into what they play that they stop being the person they are but the part they play.
Almost every one of the cast, be it Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, or even our very own Lillette Dubey are spectacular in their roles.
The only 'actor' who irritates this impeccable ensemble is Dev Patel. However, one guesses that as a new representative of Diaspora actors, no British or Hollywood film set in India can be complete without him.
Besides the special effects laden films, 'The Best Exotic...' is the type of beautiful little films with big hearts for whom big screens are made.
Go watch this one. You'll have the fun, touching ride of your life.