An interview with Shubhashish Bhutiani and his movie ”˜Mukti Bhavan’ ”“ a hotel where people come to die to attain salvation

By Manju Mittal

”˜Mukti Bhawan’ a film directed and written by the twenty five year old Shubhashish Bhutiani, will be released in India on April 7, 2017. Just as the title of the film suggests, the Mukti provides a backdrop to a family drama in the great northern Indian city of Varanasi – the spiritual capitol of India situated on the banks of the River Ganges.

Multi Bhavan is an  award winning film with international title of the film as ”˜Hotel Salvation’, a compelling, sensitive film which will throw up some unexpected surprises for even the most avid of family drama fans. Actor Adil Hussain ( Life of Pie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Sunrise ) is in the lead role as a son of actor Lalit Behl.  Filmed entirely on location in the ancient city of Varanasi in northern India, the feature film showcases a talented supporting cast that includes: Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh, Navnindra Behl and   Anil K Rastogi. The film is produced by Shubhashish’s father Sanjay Bhutiani.

”˜Mukti Bhawan’ has been screened at many film festivals and is a brilliantly made film. It was  an audience favorite at all the festivals. Three years ago, Shubhashish Bhutiani’s short film ”˜Kush’ had won the Orizzonti Award for best short film.

Here director Shubhashish Bhutiani talks about his passion for cinema and his experience of making ”˜Mukti Bhawan”.

Tell us about story of the film? Is it based on the relationship between father & son?

Well, ”˜Mukti Bhawan’ is a joyful tale of love and it takes place in a hotel where people check in to spend the last days of their lives. However, the story is not that much about death but much more about a special father and son relationship and their capacity to let go.

When father Daya, a 77 year old man, wakes up from a strange nightmare, he knows his time is up and he must get to Varanasi immediately in hope of dying there to attain salvation. His dutiful son is left with no other choice but to drop everything and make the journey with his father leaving behind his wife and daughter. The two of them check into Mukti Bhawan, a hotel devoted to people hoping to spend their last days there. The son finds himself having to live and take care of his father for the first time in his life.

”˜Mukti Bhawan’ screened at many film festivals, were you expecting that?

No I wasn’t expecting at all, when you are making feature films you are not thinking of festivals but I am happy that it has been received the way it has and that people are inquiring and inviting us to festivals that has thrilled me a lot.

How do you feel ”˜Mukti Bhawan’ premiering in many festivals including Sydney Film Festival in June?

It is an incredible honour to be premiering the film in many festivals and this is a great pride for all of us to bring this film to Australia audience, I hope the audience approves. It is a different kind of film.

What motivated you to make the film ”˜Mukti Bhawan’?

The idea of the film came while visiting Varanasi for the first time and came across a place where people check-in before they die. That’s how I went to a few guest houses around the city and met the people living there, I spent time listening to their stories. Once I had the story, I made it into a script then I started casting my actors.

As a young film maker, you have not only directed the film but you have written the story as well, share your journey with us?

It’s been a great exciting journey. I always wanted to do film. This is not my first film I made two short films while studying filmmaking at the school of Visual Arts in New York City ”˜In the Star’ 2012 and ”˜Kush’ 2013. Kush was in the long list of 10 live action shorts competing for the final five nominations in the Oscar race of 2014.

Film making has a charm of its own. It was a lot of research that went into giving the movie its authenticity. I lived in Varanasi and shot the entire film, yes it was a huge learning experience for me.

How was working with very talented lead actor Adil Hussain? What was the casting process for Mukti Bhawan?

Working with Adil is a great process of discovery, you are exploring all the time, learnt a lot from him. Overall it was a great experience working with Adil Hussain. He is extremely talented and very friendly and dear to me.   Main characters of the film Adil Hussain as Rajiv and Lalit Behl as Daya, he is from a theatre background, I knew casting them in the role of father and son would determine the success of the film. I was very fortunate to have the best cast and crew. We have brilliant performances by the entire cast.

Would you consider film making a tough task?

( Laughs ) Yes filmmaking is a very tough job. I must say it’s tough but very rewarding.

Mukti Bhawan is a must watch film not just for cine lovers but everyone. It’s a family love story with a great message as people seek mukti that is liberation of the soul according to Hindu philosophy. Mukti Bhvan is one such place where they come to die under the belief that they will finally get salvation. Mukti Bhavan is a movie that tries to answer all that and much more. Do see it in June at the Sydney Film Festival.


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