Monday, 18 March 2013


“Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as a spectator.” - Confucius

We watched a delightful movie at the weekend, which provided us with an opportunity to relax, sit back and enjoy a thoughtful, amusing and poignant statement on old age. It was John Madden’s 2011 “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup and Maggie Smith. The film is based on the novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach, with a screenplay by Ol Parker.

The film concerns a motley group of British retirees who for different reasons, decide to “outsource” their retirement to exotic India. The grounds for moving there are varied and range from the economic, to the medical, to the lure of adventure, to the call of the past. They are attracted by advertisements for the newly-restored best, exotic “Marigold Hotel”, near Jaipur, but when they arrive they find an ancient, crumbling palace which is merely a shadow of its former glorious self. It is run by a young, inexperienced but enthusiastic landlord who has his own battles to fight. The interactions amongst the British tourists themselves as well as their interactions with the Indians are a source of humour, exasperation, sympathy, pleasure and perplexity for the viewer – not to mention the complex goings-on amongst the Indians.

The movie provides a wonderful vehicle for the talents of the geriatric British cast. Maggie Smith playing a prejudiced Englishwoman forced to “live in hell” is a wonderful study in small-minded parochialism, which nevertheless is ripe for redemption. Judi Dench acts wonderfully the role of a woman searching to find herself as a widow who in the past has relied too much on her husband. Nighy and Wilton play a couple with old scars and deep marital problems, brought to the fore by their recent penury and their forced expatriation to an India that is fascinating to one but repugnant to the other. Ronald Pickup plays a randy old man who is in search of paramours, while Imrie is the former society divorcée (with many notches on her belt) who searches for her next rich husband (or maybe that should be, victim…).

Perhaps the most poignant role is played by Tom Wilkinson, a newly-retired high court judge who has come to India to find the long-lost love of his youth. Dev Patel hams it up slightly as the landlord, and represents the young, vibrant India, which is desperate to catch up with the rest of the world and take the opportunities offered by rapid development. He has to fight not only to succeed as the hotel owner, but he also must defend his love, which is attacked by his traditional and all-too-sensible mother.

This is an intelligent, thoughtful movie with its fair share of wry humour, poignant moments, love and hate, pleasantry and seriousness. It makes a comment on old age and youth, love and lust, tradition and progress, prejudice and tolerance, religious fervour and agnosticism. It is an ensemble piece that works the plot in multihued threads, as the characters’ lives ravel and unravel, working their way in patterns created by the warp and woof of the story.

We enjoyed the film immensely and although it is not a particularly deep film nor is it one that will give you deep belly laughs, it combines humour and melancholy in the right doses to give one a pleasant viewing experience that is tinged with the right amount of poignancy to make it suitably bitter-sweet and perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, while the rain is falling outside. We recommend this film and give it a rating of 7.5/10.

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