A Preview & Review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was released in the UK on 24th February, in Europe throughout March and will finally hit the USA and India on 4th May. With numerous reviews and comments doing the rounds here, we at Bollyspice thought we’d give those in the States and in India a heads up on what to expect. Given that this is a British film and almost the entire cast and crew, which includes the writers, producers and director are British too, the film is actually set in India and features Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame, hence there is an obvious interest within diaspora and Asian communities. Rather than a traditional review of the film we bring you a series of opinions from a cross section of people in the UK who have seen the film: an Aunty-ji, a young British-Asian, a westerner and a film critic and then leave you to decide whether to see the film…

In a nutshell the film is a comedy drama which follows a group of British retirees who travel to Udaipur in Rajasthan to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Far less luxurious than its exotic advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways and transforms each one of them so that they can learn to live life joyfully once again. So here is what some of our viewers had to say:

The Aunty-ji: middle age, mother of three, lives on a staple diet of Bollywood films!

This was a very nice, family film and different for a British film. I was expecting a plain comedy, but this film is also a serious one and it was nice to see elderly actors and actresses as the main stars, something which you will not see in Hindi films.

The clichés were a little annoying at times: untouchables, call centres and arranged marriages, also it was not as real as say Slumdog Millionaire, with the difficulties and poverty of India played down, but it was fun and colourful to watch.

For someone from India it is always lovely to watch India on screen and although I have been to Jaipur before, this film is set in Udiapur where I have not been, so I enjoyed the scenery like a tourist alongside many non-Asian’s in the audience.

I would say that this a very ‘middle-class’ film and the humor caters towards that, so maybe not everyone will appreciate it,  but it is easily a family film which you can all enjoy together and unlike Hindi films it was not too long, with too much drama or overacting!

The young British-Asian: loves films generally, always intrigued by films set in India.

A nice simple feel-good film and positive towards India/South-East cultures, for example how the extended family network and respect for elders/senior citizens is something that the west can learn from, unlike the usual child versus parent and culture-clash British Asian dramas!

As far as British films go, think Full Monty and Four Weddings and Funeral – this is a similar feel-good and fun film, which may not be groundbreaking, but has some great one liners and laugh-out-loud moments, as well as being entertaining, colourful and uplifting. But on the other hand it is about a physical and emotional journey for the central characters, each of whom have their own backstory and how the experience in India changes them. As far as Bollywood films go, think Amitabh Bachchan’s Baghban, the drama, acting and emotions – this is close as it gets with a British film!

I do think Dev Patel is in danger of getting typecast, although he is great at what he does here, but I definitely think his next film should be completely different and he not have to play yet another Indian/Asian character! All in all, a good fun film which a younger and older generation can hopefully appreciate with a good two hours of entertainment.

The Westerner: loved Monsoon Wedding and Slumdog Millionaire, been travelling in India, can handle a hot curry!

I loved this film! Having travelled to India and visited Rajasthan, it was amazing to see the vibrancy and colour of the place on screen. I could also relate to what many of the characters go through, in having to adjust to this crazy but wonderful land, so for those of you have been before and for those of you who have heard the stories or wish to go – you’ll love this film!

The hotel is a character itself, as is India of course! I watched this with my mum, so in that sense it was a great family film. Not too preachy (although I have always admired the family connection Indian families have) but at the same time had some great comic moments with an intelligent script.

From a film perspective there are some great performances from the leads, so even if you ignore the backdrop, it is a sheer delight to watch the likes of Judy Dench and Tom Wilkinson on screen. It’s also directed by John Madden who directed ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Captain Correlli’s Mandolin’, both of which I loved and I think he did a great job projecting the beauty and vibrancy of India on screen.

The film critic: unphased by the fact this film has an Indian backdrop, just interested in watching good films.

An average film and one which would be great watching on DVD or on television. The main characters lacked depth and at times veered close to caricatures. It would have been nice to have gone a little bit more beyond the comedy and drama and to see a bit more of the real India, rather than just passing references.

As with many book to film transfers, case in example here again that the book was much better, whilst the film seems to follow quite a typical story graph – tried and tested, with nothing much new to offer.

However, the film clearly connected with the audience and the majority were laughing their way through the scenes and left the hall with smiles on their faces and to the chatter of how much they enjoyed it, so if you can overlook the flaws and relish a couple of hours of feel good entertainment, then you won’t be disappointed.

Right so based on all the above, we’ll give it a cool 3 ½ stars (one from each of our 3 viewers and the half from the film critic!)

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