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Hotel Salvation: new film tackles death, forgiveness and redemption

INDIAN actor Adil Hussain first became intrigued by death when he was graduating from drama school.

He questioned the concept of time, the mystery of what happens after one dies and the notion of reincarnation. It is this, he told Eastern Eye, that initially drew him to his latest cinema release, Hotel Salvation.

Set primarily in the Indian holy city of Varanasi, Hussain’s character Rajiv joins
his father as he attempts to seek salvation before he passes. The film explores the
themes of life, death and rebirth as the two protagonists rediscover contentment
and peace.

Indeed, working on the movie seems to have been something of a cathartic experience for Hussain. One of the most poignant moments in the film for the 53-year-old is one particularly moving, yet charmingly humorous, scene where his character asks for forgiveness from his on-screen father, played by Indian actor Lalit Behl.

“I couldn’t be there when my own father actually passed away as I was shooting for some TV series around 3,000km from my hometown. So when this scene happened, when I am saying goodbye to my [on screen] father thinking that he would actually pass away, it was very real for me.

“I couldn’t actually say bye to my dad when he passed away so here I was saying my goodbye to my dad, believing that he is my dad. It was one of my favourite moments in the film.”

The life-affirming drama is being released in the UK, after a very successful run in a variety of prestigious film festivals, having already received Best Film at the 2017 New York Indian Film Festival.

Hussain’s character (left) with Indian actor Lalit Behl

The film has a deep subject matter, so it is something of a surprise to discover that
the director of the film is as young as he is. At 25, director Shubhashish Bhutiani has already won critical acclaim for his work, including his short film Kush, which was a prize winner at the Venice Film Festival in 2013 and Hussain laughs as he explains what it was like to work with such an up-and-coming film maker.

“When I was told about this 23 year old boy who had written the script and was going to direct [it] at the age of 24, I thought ‘Wow, I was chasing girls when I was 24 and this boy has written a script on death.’

“When I met him, I thought he was extremely wise. You know, like an old wine in a new bottle. He’s very mature and wise and humble and intelligent at the same time.”
Keen to allow his actors to let moments happen and choose their own direction, Hussain explains that Bhutiani was careful in allowing some of his direction to be ambiguous.

“It was a collaborative process rather than a dictatorial process, so that is why I guess the film has become the way it has become.”

The film has been recognised in the independent film industry, but Hussain hopes that the appetite for these kinds of movies will continue to grow in India.

According to the actor, whose other film credits include Life of Pi and comedy drama English-Vinglish, Hotel Salvation should be considered as a mainstream piece due to its father-son premise and he hopes that this kind of cinema will become as famous as Bollywood films.

“You know, commercial Bollywood films would be released in 3,000 screens and this would release in 150 screens so it is a huge disparity. I hope it becomes better,” he says.

Hotel Salvation will be released on 25 August 2017 at select cinemas across the UK.