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    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    SPOILERS AHEAD
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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 22, Dated 02 June 2012
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    SPOILERS AHEAD

    An Oriental Bloom

    By Shone Satheesh Babu

    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

    DIRECTOR
    John Madden


    STARRING

    Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith




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    A BUNCH of geriatric pensioners from the UK look to India for some last-minute fulfillment from their lives. In a colonial coup though, the scriptwriters lure them to change the lives of a couple of grateful Indians too. When they arrive at the hotel in Jaipur, managed by a spirited and ingratiating Sonny (Dev Patel), we’re dished out multiple helpings of insistent stereotypes and culture shocks; the horrors of finding a derelict hotel and surroundings so far-removed from its Photoshopped advertisement.

    But these flaws are offset by a stellar performance from British theatre veterans. Call them the justice league of thespians. Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie and Bill Nighy come with exclusive lenses refracting an India into their own objects of pity, elation, grouchiness, eroticism, fantasies, etc. Dench is a widow seeking new shores after paying off her husband’s debts; Wilkinson is looking for the man he once loved 40 years ago. Going by the movie, it’s not the hotel that brings them together, but the failure of the British establishment in keeping their senior citizens happy — through inheritanceusurping progeny or condescending retirement homes built for the decrepit. Perhaps the dilapidated hotel was after all an apt metaphor of their lives.

    Each guest sets out to occupy a portion of the city, but we are only entitled to a selective view. There are no broad panoramic sweeps. And for all its lurking Orientalism, the movie does leave some space to wonder whether the retirees chose India because of how we treat our elderly.

    A genuinely funny moment takes place when Sonny’s ingénue Sunaina (Tena Desae), who works in the same call centre that has hired Dench as a cultural adviser, slips nude into his bed. She finds Imrie there instead, who had swapped rooms with Sonny after finding hers inadequate. Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey) is furious. Less at finding a naked girl in the room, and more because she’s the girlfriend Dubey never wanted her son to have.

    Dubey is the only Indian actor who dazzles, despite playing the typical Indian mother. Debunks the theory that a boilerplate role is doomed from the start. This movie is more about the unpleasant realities that ail folks in the third act of their lives. India could just as well be a minor incidental.

    Shone Satheesh Babu is an assistant copy editor with Tehelka


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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 22 Dated 02 June 2012
 

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