I would say it’s a rather uncanny coincidence. Mukti Bhawan is a film that I had wanted to write about for a long time. Just as I had gathered my thoughts and was close to penning the piece, I heard about the sad demise of actor Lalit Behl, who essayed the role of patriarch Dayanand Kumar in the film. The veteran actor-filmmaker passed away due to COVID complications on April 23.
As I pray for the eternal peace of the departed soul, I take a humble step to share my thoughts on this brilliant piece of cinema.
It was the fall of 2016. After being premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, Mukti Bhawan received a 10-minute standing ovation from the audience. The depth of the subject matter and the delicate sensitivity with which it was handled moved the viewers immensely. Over the years, Mukti Bhawan has been showered with worldwide critical acclaim and has been screened at several film festivals. Its most recent entry is into this April’s London Indian Film Festival.
Glimpses of the story
Daya (Lalit Behl) lives with his son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) and his family. A dream he sees implants the idea in his mind that his days on earth are numbered. He announces at the dinner table that he wants to attain salvation and spend the final stage of his life in the sacred ghats of Varanasi. Rajiv is at the crossroads where he needs to balance between his office work and making preparations for his daughter’s wedding. Yet he carries out his father’s wishes and takes Daya who is relentless and stubborn and won’t hear otherwise.
‘Mukti Bhawan’ is the lodge that Daya and Rajiv check into. An establishment housing elderly people, it lays down the rule which allows a maximum of 15 days of residency. Daya is at ease, settling in comfortably. He finds companionship in Vimla, a widow who has lived there for a long stretch since her husband’s death. Rajiv performs his duties as the obedient son, but he has the constant pressure mounting over him to return home and to his work.
Within the walls of this dilapidated building come alive the differences between the father and the son that have so long remained buried. Are Daya and Rajiv able to make peace and forget the past? And does Daya attain the salvation that he so passionately desired? These are the answers to look for as the film takes us through an emotional experience layered with sensitive humane nuances.
The film mirrors reality through a script that is top-notch
The theme of ageing parents is not new in the Indian film diaspora and has been addressed earlier. But what sets Mukti Bhawan on a level of its own is its realistic dimension. The story unfolds spontaneously with the absence of overt melodrama.
Although the film steps into a philosophical domain by talking about life and death, there are light-hearted moments sandwiched between serious happenings. These scenes allow the narrative to flow with a naturalistic, unencumbered ease. There is, for instance, a scene in which Daya’s granddaughter jokingly tells him that she is glad that she would have a room all by herself when he leaves the house. Again a comic moment surfaces when Daya falls ill and a bhajan is sung in anticipation of his death. Unable to bear the cacophony, he asks the singers to sing in tune.
A stellar star cast contributes its utmost
Mukti Bhawan belongs to the duo of Lalit Behl and Adil Hussain, who deliver their master strokes. Their interactions and conversations elevate the father-son relationship to a point where the scenes feel like those from real life and not just reel moments.
Behl is extremely convincing as the cantankerous father making inconsiderate demands. Anyone dealing with aged parents can easily relate to those times when he regresses to a state of childlike obstinacy, a behavior not too uncommon and seen sometimes among the elderly.
Adil Hussain’s portrayal of Rajiv fetched him a National Award, and it’s an accolade rightfully deserved. What is distinctive about the actor is that he moulds himself effortlessly into any character he plays in his films. The role of Rajiv ranks high in the list of his outstanding performances. Anger, sadness, and frustration encircle him as he has to shoulder the responsibilities of a son, a husband, and a father. Hussain displays these varied emotions with unbelievable finesse.
The female actors in the film also show promise. Geetanjali Kulkarni as Rajiv’s wife and Palomi Ghosh as the independent-minded daughter make their presence felt by contributing their fair share. Navindra Behl as Daya’s companion strikes a chord with her warmth and kind disposition.
The film celebrates the parental bond with a heartwarming panache
Mukti Bhawan is a testimony to the genius and maturity of director Subhashis Bhutiani, who embarked on this project in his twenties. Life and death are the two major strands in the web of human existence, and the film delineates this truth with fine artistry. Bhutiani weaves into this reality a story of human ties that raises questions and opens a window for reflection.
Without any moralizing, the film leaves a note, and it does so rather subtly and wisely. There are those unspoken words that contribute to the uniqueness of the narrative. While celebrating the parental bond, the film focuses on a father-son relationship which is seemingly imperfect. The bumps and jolts do not make the journey a breezy ride. But there emerges a beautiful realization that even within these misunderstandings, there is still ample room to make amends, allow forgiveness, and thereby preserve the sanctity of this timeless relationship.
(This article was published in India Currents )
The narrative is so uncommon…your skill of storytelling has enhanced the illuminating moments and precision of Indian traditions…Adil is brilliant!
Thanks a ton for reading & posting your feedback. Truly humbled by your generous comment ❤️🙏
“Mukti Bhawan” is a series of vignettes that explore the relationship between son and father before the latter may or may not breathe his last in a few days. It is a Masterpiece that Embraces Life and Death. I have just finished reading the article you wrote. I want to tell you how much I appreciated your clearly written and thought provoking article. I would like to thank you for a well researched and well written article . Always look forward to your writings. Love you dear.
Thank you so much for reading & posting your extremely encouraging feedback! 🙏❤️I am so touched! Regards!
Makes me want to watch the movie. Dealing with old parents and their childlike behavior is something many of us have gone through at this stage of our life. My brother who looked after my Dad the last few months of his life said that they were the best days of his life. Cannot imagine my difficult Dad giving my brother his best days. But it says a lot about my dear brother more than my father. Well written as always my dear! Hope to watch the movie soon.
Yes it’s a film which deals with the father son relationship in a beautiful way. So realistically portrayed! Thank you 🙏❤️so much for reading and sharing your personal experience!
Fantastico Mamuba! Need to watch the movie now…
Thanks so much for reading & posting your feedback! 🙏❤️
A truly wonderful review of a masterpiece movie. Enjoyed reading it, Rashmi ba !!
Glad you liked the review!!!! Thank you so much for reading & posting your kind feedback ❤️🙏
Wonderful review Rashmi. We left a comment about another film as a reply to another article on your website. Hope you get a chance to see it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article!🙏
Sounds like a really good movie Rashmi. Thank you for the review.
We hope you will consider writing a review of our Indian-American family rom-com THE LAST CONCEPTION for India Currents to. It has been received with much acclaim. Culture Vulture, “A healing balm for our current wounds”.
*****The Sikand family learns that their only hope of continuing their “ancient bloodline” is their skeptical gay daughter Savarna.
It is available on AmazonPrime, YouTube, IMDB TV, Vudu, Fandango, and other platforms. A private, confidential viewing and/or press kit, is also available upon request. We look forward to hearing from you.
Gabriel & Gabriela
I am truly humbled and will definitely review your film! Best regards
Thank you so much Rashmi. We look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy the movie. Our email is: email@example.com. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend so far.
Hope you are well and in a cool place today. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing your review of The Last Conception in India Currents.
Hi Gabriel, I sure will write that piece. It’s on my list. Have been a little busy, but will do it for sure 🙂 Take care!
Thank you so much Rashmi. Hope you enjoyed the film.
I absolutely loved “The Last Conception”, working on the review soon!
Thank you for your message Rashmi and for your review of Mukti Bhawan. It sounds like a wonderful film and we’re looking forward to watching it.
Hope all is well. Looking forward to reading your review of The Last Conception. Have a wonderful weekend.
No worries!!! It’s on my list and I will definitely share my review of The Last Conception 😊 Regards!
Thank you Rashmi.