The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I want to go to India. Friends who have travelled… and I mean “travelled” in the sense that they have not just gone places, they have LIVED places, many of them tell me “You must visit India. The richness, the culture, the colours, the smells”. I really want to do this. While I do love SE Asian culture, I suspect that much of the wonder and overpowering sense of life that I love about Saigon could be seen a thousand-fold in India.

My brother-in-law is Indian. He comes from Mumbai, but he lives in Saigon with his Vietnamese wife and their adorable son Riza (I hope I spell that right). He doesn’t talk much about India, but his wife is quite interested in it. He, with the help of his lovely mother in Mumbai has very carefully taught her how to make Indian food and she cooks a fabulous biryani that I have be lucky enough to sample on two occasions and as a lover of Indian food I feel I can say with some authority that it is damn good.

I love movies that celebrate the life of another culture. I love foreign movies in general. But I especially love ones that just show you how life is, somewhere else. I watch Indian movies sometimes… not lots, but I have been known to sit down to a well-known Bollywood movie. But I also sort of like the western movies that portray India. I remember once watching “Outsourced” and laughing at it’s hilarious tongue-in-cheek depiction of the quirks of life there… such as a cow being in a call centre for no obvious reason. I can relate to that, having seen a chicken in a mobile phone store in Vietnam before.

I love Slumdog Millionaire. Mostly because it’s an absolutely brilliant love story about overcoming adversity to be with the one you love. But this week I finally watched a movie that I had been wanting to watch for almost three years. Back in 2011, after returning to Australia after living for a while in Saigon, I attended a cinema and saw a trailer for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. Featuring the delightful British actors Judi Dench and Bill Nighy who I am very fond of, it promised to be a fantastic display of fish-out-of-water British comedy in which a group of elderly Brits end up at a retirement resort in India which is most definitely not what they expect.

I couldn’t catch it at the cinema nor find it on DVD, but it stuck in my mind so this week I downloaded it. But the movie turned out to be so much more. It actually did not feature a million crazy pitfalls of being a foreigner in India and in fact, all of the guests adjust incredibly well to the different lifestyle and very little comment is made on the quirks of being a white person in India. The movie is funny because the actors are all so charming, but it is not a comedy. It is a beautiful drama about love, existence and finding oneself.

If ever a movie made being old look cool, I would have to say it is this one. When I was young, as most young people do, I insisted I didn’t want to get old. I hoped I would die young. I hear that from young people all the time. I don’t feel that way anymore. Being old looks awesome. Just the whole idea of having done it all, made mistakes, had good times and bad and not taking everything too seriously… of having lived your whole life according to society’s rules and acting a certain way, but then sometimes just going “Yeah, but you know what ? Fuck that. I’m old and I deserve the right do what the fuck I want”.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not a movie about India. It’s not a comedy. It’s not really an incredible love story (though it ends with three happy new couples), but it is a movie about taking chances. About going in way over your head, out of your depth and still managing to find your feet. About just going “Well this is fucking different. But I can work with this”. And I love that about this movie because it really does, in a subtle way, glorify what it is to just uproot and live “somewhere else” and love it.

So many people don’t travel or live abroad because they are afraid how they will cope with things when their world isn’t the way they are used to. When the people around them don’t speak the same language and they can’t read signs and the food is different. They think they can’t adapt. But you can. Very easily. Humans do that. We do seek comfort in familiarity and we run to it when things are difficult sometimes. But living a life that is not the same as everyone around you is fantastic. The lack of pressure to conform. The constant questioning of your life and the way you present yourself. These issues can melt away when you get out of your own little homogenous, everything made out of ticky-tacky (“Little boxes, on the hillside…”) world and throw yourself in the deep end. Living in a foreign land makes you realise that we are all the same. As much as we are all so different, we are far more the same than we are different.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel contains some of the most amazing quotes. They are simple things, but meaningful. And somehow they mean more coming out of the words of these people’s mouths than they do when you read them on some stock background on Facebook.

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.”

“Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.”
“Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”

“Nothing happens unless first we dream”

“Is it our friend we are grieving for, whose life we knew so little? Or is it our own loss that we are mourning? Have we traveled far enough that we can allow our tears to fall?”

If you have a chance, do watch this excellent movie. If it is not easily available for sale (and let’s face it, what is except junk ?) and you are unable to obtain it via a streaming service or whatever wonderful means of delivering content to users that we develop in the future and you live in the world and time that I live in, then search for it on your favourite bittorrent search engine or ask google where to find “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel torrent”. You might just want to grow old and live in India :)

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