The British Film Institute is releasing the coming of death dramatic comedy Hotel Salvation on Region B Blu-ray February 26th. Read on to find out if it is worth the import!
The last couple years I have been trying to watch more diverse films and interesting slice of life stories from other countries. India is one market that I know practically nothing about as far as film history or their top artists are concerned. I purchased a region free player so that I could broaden out to different companies to check out their film offerings. One of the top restoration outfits is BFI (British Film Institute) and they release not only historically great films but also smaller seen contemporary ones as well.
I jumped at the chance to review this upcoming release from a newcomer, writer/director Shubhashish Bhutiani. Both his first feature-length film Hotel Salvation and his award-winning short film Kush are included on this Blu-ray release. Kush (2013) is a look at a true story from 1984 when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. The short focuses on a teacher and her students, one of which is a Sikh, and her attempts to protect the class from the violence surrounding the group on a field trip. Some of the techniques and shots give a glimpse of what Bhutiani will accomplish with his feature.
Hotel Salvation (2016) right away gives a hint of what kind of film it will be. The shots are all drenched in warm colors punctuated by a slower pace. The story itself bounces around between recent time periods to accentuate the relationships and thought processes of the characters. Really the story boils down to being about a journey to death. Typically that would be presented in a dark or more somber tone with deep blue hues, but this is not the case here. There is a bit of humor and a bit of clash of culture and ritual of old school with the modern lifestyle of a businessman in India.
A dream makes 77-year-old Daya (Lalit Behl in one of his few roles) realize that his days are almost up. Instead of just dying in his house Daya wants to make the journey to Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) in Varanasi. He askes his busy son Rajiv (Adil Hussain, Life of Pi) to make the journey with him. Typically in a movie like this, you would expect the journey to the hotel to take up the entirety of the screen time, where father and son learn life lessons and bond on the way. Hotel Salvation gives little screen time to the journey itself, rather it focuses on what happens after Daya makes it to the Hotel and how Rajiv deals with saying there with him until Daya dies.
Its a simple premise with every part of the film weighing on the humanity of the actors. They seem to sink into their roles and you forget about them being in a movie and you start to see the character development. It’s a gentle and tender film. For some, I’d imagine it’s a spiritual experience. There are laughs to be had and I’m sure some will tear up thinking about their own lives and those of their loved ones. It crosses national boundaries to really show just how similar our lives are, and of course what all of us will eventually have to face. Although it is a story about death it goes about it in a more gentle manner and celebrates life and love.
One of the quotes of the film is “dying is a process”. This film is a philosophical view of that process and contemplates life and how we look at it. For some more versed in Indian culture, religion and views I’m sure there is a depth of references that I didn’t catch in the film. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but the title is Hotel Salvation, so it makes sense that there is a coming to terms with what one has done (and will do) with their life. It’s a film about small things adding up to make a person who they are, and I like that view of filmmaking as I feel it is realistic. The characters do seem like real people and react in natural ways. It’s a celebration and a commentary on what it means to be a person.
Because the film is more poetic, philosophical and introspective it is filmed in that same way. BFI have done a fantastic job on the transfer. The colors are rich and the picture is sharp. The audio has a perfect balance of dialogue and a subtle score that just adds to the atmosphere of the film. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Hindi with English subtitles. There are also a host of special features which make it a must purchase for those who are already fans of the film.
- Kush (25:13) Short film debut from writer/director Shubhashish Bhutiani
- Hotel Salvation Q&A (26:27): Director Shubhashish Bhutiani and producer Sanjay Bhutiani in conversation with Gaylene Gould, from 2017.
- The Making of Hotel Salvation: A 12-minute look behind the scenes featuring the cast and crew on location in Varanasi.
- Panorama of Calcutta: 2-minute short showing Varanasi
- International Trailer, UK Theatrical Trailer, UK Teaser Trailer
Apparently, the retail release is going to have an illustrated booklet with essays but we were not provided one with the review copy.
Hotel Salvation Final Thoughts:
At its essence, Hotel Salvation is a story of a father and a son. It’s also a tale of how death comes to all of us. Considering we are all children of someone, and eventually we will all die, there is something that will speak to all of us in the film. If you have the ability to watch Region B Blu-ray and have a love for a film outside of the Hollywood cookie cutter production lab then I can highly recommend checking out Hotel Salvation from BFI. It’s a beautiful film with a calm, gentle message and it should be more appreciated. You can purchase your copy from Amazon or other fine retailers.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.