The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

1 Feb

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I didn’t think that I would say this, but for the first time in my life, I can actually say that the film version of a novel was far superior in it’s telling of the story itself rather than the written word.

I know this is probably wrong but I watched the film first and was inspired to read The Best Exotoc Marigold Hotel purely based on the fine performances and sentimental performances of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench et al.

Originally published in 2004 as a novel called These Foolish Things, I was expecting the written word to be more “Indian” in its story telling and description of what modern day India has to offer retired, caucasion citizens from the UK. Instead, what I read was a somewhat contrived depiction of Brits in India, and the same old thread of trying to recreate a “Little England” in a vast sea of brown faces.

There were some lovely scenes in introducing the main characters and their minor interactions or exchanges. But I felt that the film version did the right thing in editing what appeared to be unnecessary scenes or characters that did not add to the plot. The stories or relationships of the sons and daughters of the elderly citizens within the Residential Home did not move or stir any emotions in me.  Too many characters and sub-plots made the novel feel a bit clumsy and laborious to read in parts. I was more inclined to know more about the history and dynamics of the residents who were finding new found respect, hope and love amongst the delapidated hotel than their offspring which consisted of a New Age Travelling daughter, a suspicious “businessman” , a middle aged Englishman who felt suffocated by his marriage to an American, a young. gay man and a frustrated English housewife married to an Indian.

What the film did not portray so well was the use of Dev Patel as Sonny Kapoor, part owner and mnager of the hotel. I wasn’t struck by his performance and felt he was out of place as a young character  of this relatively majestic accomodation. So, when I was reading the novel, I was expecting his character to be the same young, swaggering, ‘people-pleaser’. I was to read that his character was more of a mature man in his 50’s who appeared to be dominated by his wife and cajoled by others around him. I think that would’ve been a better option to keep his character the same in the celluloid version too!

There were aspects of this novel that reminded me of novels by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, like Heat & Dust or E.M. Forsters’ A Passage To India. But then, I suppose that’s to be expected when dealing with all things Indian, especially when we know that the landscape and demographics of India are changing…Hence, the introduction of the call centre to depict how times are a-changing. Hey Man! India is finally moving with the times, Old Man!

I would usually say the book is so much better than the film  but not in this case.

The Learned Kat

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