I was drafting a different blog when I realized it wasn't making a lot of sense, so I decided to riff on another topic altogether.
Anyone who has read my books over the years has probably noticed that I’m intrigued by the various historical connections between Britain and its empire, especially India, since there has been so much interaction over the centuries. I also occasionally like to riff on movies: one of my favorites was Amazing Grace, a wonderfully entertaining biopic of William Wilberforce, the great anti-slavery crusader and reformer of late 18th and early 19th century Britain.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is more of a sweet adult tale with both comedy and drama, but it also has two major elements that struck me. The first is—how often do we get movies that are serious about the lives and emotions of senior citizens? Not often enough.
The set up of the movie has an exuberant young Indian, Sonny Kapoor, decide that he should convert his late father’s crumbling hotel into a retirement home for Britons who want to live in the sunshine, and who may not be able to afford to live as well as they’d like at home. Played by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire, Sonny is charming but not very practical.
The movie follows seven Britons who come to India to live in Sonny’s hotel, with varying degrees of satisfaction. Most are single, like the newly widowed Evelyn, played by the ever-wonderful Dame Judi Dench. As she blogs about her experiences so her family and friends in Britain can stay in touch, she becomes the emotional center of the film.
Some of the Britons embrace the color and chaos of India, others hate it, and at least one of the characters adapts rather against her will. There is the racist who isn’t comfortable with all those dark skins, and the silver foxy lady who doesn’t care what race a man is if he’s attractive and has some money.
The storylines were handled with a light touch, but the characters felt real to me. I cared what happened to them—and I felt very satisfied at the end.
I also really enjoyed the way BEMH showed modern India. There are modern young lovers on scooters, and traditional women in graceful saris. We see an Indian call center from the point of view of the young, intelligent graduates who work there, and the tug between tradition and a changing world.
Movies are such fun to chat about, aren't they? My sister and I are plotting to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel again over Thanksgiving. Have you seen the movie or would you like to?
Come to think of it, this is a category of story I particularly like. Maybe it’s time to rewatch Under the Tuscan Sun, since it has a lovely intercultural story line, though without the colonial history…