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When this movie first came out, my best friend highly recommended it to me; however, it didn't really seem like something I would find that interesting so I ignored her advice until now. Prior to watching this film, I had absolutely no idea what the film was actually about apart from the fact that it was something to do with old British people in India, though I had heard that it's funny so I gave it a shot.
This movie is about a group of British retirees who jet off to India to stay at the Marigold Hotel in an attempt to 'outsource old age'. None of them are particularly impressed with the hotel which had in fact been photoshopped in the brochure, some even less pleased than others, but as time goes on, they all grow and develop and learn to love India.
This film is described as a 'British Comedy-Drama', though I have to say that I didn't find it that funny. Sure, it was amusing, and there were moments that made me chuckle, but nothing really hilarious. The first third of the film is quite amusing as you get to know each of the individual characters and their personalities, but as the film progressed it started to lose the humour and become more about the drama. Personally, I didn't think that there was much of a 'plot', as such, but the character development was interesting to watch.
There is an absolutely brilliant array of talented actors in this film, so I had quite high expectations right from the onset and they certainly did not disappoint. The acting was phenomenal and I loved that they were all British. Dev Patel's indian accent was funny, but accurate and his character is certainly the most loveable of them all. Dame Maggie Smith is an absolutely incredible actress and is one of my favourites. Her character probably underwent the biggest transformation and it really showed that Dame Smith can act just about any character superbly. The other characters included Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and countless other British actors.
This was a lovely movie, but, it just wasn't exciting enough for me. The acting was superb and the concept was great and I would highly recommend it but it just isn't the sort of movie that floats my boat (which is surprising because I haven't said that about any movie in a long, long time). This film will probably appeal to those who know a lot about either British or Indian traditions, because this film is primarily about the clashing, or coming together, of the two cultures. I liked the portrayal of British and Indian culture and this was the best bit for me. I have never been to India myself; however, I think that they gave a pretty decent portrayal of the vibrant Indian culture. There was lots of hustle and bustle and it was exactly how I imagine India to be. The characters are pretty stereotypical British, old retirees; however, they all react in very different ways to India and their surroundings. All in all, I wasn't expecting anything brilliant and I, personally, didn't really relate to this film at all; however, I can still see that it is a great film that many others will enjoy.
Way back in the 1990s I read and enjoyed quite a few books written by Deborah Moggach but then moved on to other writers. Like many people, I've been looking forward to seeing the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and when I discovered it was based on a story by Deborah Moggach, I hightailed it to Amazon to buy myself a copy. I should warn people that this isn't a new book but was originally published back in 2004 under the title These Foolish Things and has now been re-released under this new title as a tie in to the film.
Dr Ravi Kapoor is an overworked NHS hospital doctor who regards the home he shares with his wife, Pauline, to be his sanctuary but this haven of peace and tranquillity has been shattered by the arrival of his father-in-law, Norman, an aging old reprobate who offends every one of Ravi's finer sensibilities. After Ravi complains to his cousin Sonny about the situation, the two put a plan into action which they hope will not only make them some money but also solve the problem of what to do about Norman.
It's been a long time since a book has so captured my imagination that I couldn't put it down but from the very first page I was drawn into this story which begins with a bright idea and rapidly turns into a wonderful business opportunity told in a light and humorous way but with a darker sub-text which looks at the problem faced by elderly people of where to end their days. This is especially true in this country where we tend to ship our elderly relatives into care homes rather than treat them as members of our extended family. As Ravi remarks in the books 'In my country we care for our elders and betters - know what our pension scheme is called? It's called the family!'
Poor Ravi Kapoor is beleaguered at work following a rather unfortunate incident which ended up as a major media story and he has no refuge when he gets home because of his appalling father-in-law, an ageing, sex-obsessed septuagenarian with a dodgy prostate and some rather unpleasant habits.
When he complains to his cousin Sonny about Norman, Sonny comes up his master plan. He knows someone back in Indian, in Bangalore, with an hotel and he suggests that he and Ravi sell rooms to retirees, selling the idea that India is the perfect place to retire: cheap cost of living, sunshine and an exotic environment. After his initial doubt, Ravi embraces the idea wholeheartedly and sets about trying to firstly persuade first his wife, who as a travel agent will be an essential part of the plan. It comes as no surprise that Ravi intends for Norman to be his first resident. Norman, of course, is resistant to the idea as he's settled happily into life with his daughter and son-in-law but when his urologist tells him that in Bangalore there's 'so much pussy you'll be coughing up fur balls', he decides that India is the perfect place to retire.
Norman isn't the only person who buys into the dream of retirement to India and his fellow residents all have their own reasons for seeking a home in another country. There's Evelyn whose care home is closing and she's unsure whether she can continue to fund her care in England; the Ainslies, an aging but still adventurous couple; Dorothy with nothing to look forward to but a lonely old age and, Muriel, a victim of a recent mugging and whose son has disappeared leaving behind a financial mess. These disparate souls all find themselves heading towards Bangalore and the Most Exotic Marigold Hotel owned and run by Minoo Cowasjee and his wife but once they take up residence will they find that retirement to India is all they expected?
This story is filled with larger-than-life characters both Indian and British, all of whom are well drawn and realistic. The Indians in Bangalore are verging slightly towards the stereotypical and have many of the characteristics of those who served under the Raj rather than belonging to a more modern India of Ravi and Sonny but this serves to demonstrate the cultural differences between Indians living in the West and those who've only lived in India.
The manager of the hotel, Minoo, is a delightful character. Even though he's spent all his life in India, his manner and demeanour cross cultural boundaries. He is a gentleman in the true sense of the word, caring and considerate of the residents and rather sad about the direction in which his life has gone but making the best of it. One of the causes of his sadness is his wife, Razia, a slightly embittered woman who seems to feel nothing but contempt for her husband, one suspects because he hasn't lived up to her expectations. Though the teeming world of India is outside the walls, within the compound of his hotel Minoo and his residents have recreate a long forgotten England, 'an England of Catherine Cookson paperbacks and clicking knitting needles, and of Kraft Dairylee portions.'
With regard to Bangalore's newest immigrants, it's very hard to dislike any of them or their faults either, even the coarseness of Norman is told in a manner which makes the reader smile, whereas in reality if we came across such a person we'd feel nothing but complete revulsion. That's also true of Muriel's racism which is borne more from ignorance than experience and as she gets to know the people of Bangalore, we see the scales fall from her eyes.
I think where the book probably scores over the film is that the reader is able to eavesdrop on the thoughts of the main protagonists which not only gives them a more rounded personality but allows the reader the see their hopes and fears about their new life.
I felt that in many ways, the residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel were a metaphor for all the opinions held by the people of Britain from the very liberal represented by the Ainslies to the total bigotry initially displayed by Muriel and during the course of the story, they all learn something not only about themselves but also discover the very best their new adopted country has to offer, once they've recovered from the bout of Delhi Belly they all suffer on arrival!
Each of the chapters is prefaced by a quote from various Indian writers, some even from the Buddha himself, all of them thought provoking and
This is a wonderfully warm and life-affirming read which not only highlights the differences between the British and Indian cultures but also, more tellingly demonstrates how very similar we are. It's a long time since I've closed a book with such a sense of well-being but also with great regret that I couldn't stay longer with the people at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
This book I available under its new title for £4.79 in paperback or for £3.59 for Kindle edition. Alternatively, used copies under its original title are on offer from 1p plus postage.