The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Perfect name for pensioner’s and I like the subtitles too.

I recently saw a 2012 British comedy-drama film called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, based on the 2004 novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach. The story is about a group of British retirees who go to India seeking a more affordable way of life at the Marigold Hotel, a place set up for this very purpose by a young Indian entrepreneur named Sonny Kapoor.  The main cast of British characters, around which the plot is constructed, present a splendid ensemble of seasoned actors including Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that interesting, but I’ve watched it twice now and enjoyed it as much, if not more, the second time through. I never pay too much attention to reviews for entertainment purposes, and it’s a subjective thing whether one person or another enjoys a film, but sometimes the analytics do matter – plot, scripting, casting, cinematography, shooting locale, etc. This blog is not a review about the film for entertainment, not an analytical assessment of its construction, but what it may be about is my personal reflection on what I found thought provoking, engaging and/or touching.


Film cast (L to R): Maggie Smith (Muriel Donnelly), Ronald Pickup (Norman Cousins), Bill Nighy (Douglas Ainslie), Penelope Wilton (Jean Ainslie), Celie Imrie (Madge Hardcastle), Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade), and Tom Wilkinson (Graham Dashwood)

I found the character study interesting in exploring the past history and personalities of the people engaged me. Their life circumstances and what brought them to the Marigold was not far-fetched at all and their interaction was true to life I thought. Each had their own story and coming together in India provided a  venue for some self expression. Maybe a plot contrivance for this, but a good one. It’s a geriatric collection of people, but I found myself relating to them in interesting ways and enjoying their expressions in thought and feelings, but without the stereotypes of older folks usually portrayed I think. I found it sort of a coming to terms with old-age story, but not in an end of life way, but in a new beginnings way – which just goes to show you how age is a relative thing. I am and have been a traveler in my life too, so the thematic situation in location appealed to me also as I have visited India myself. I won’t belabor the point here and you can see the film for yourself, but one aspect of the film I found very thoughtful and moving were the voice over monologues by the character of Evelyn (played by Judi Dench) in the form of letters to her son, or perhaps a blog. I’d like to share them here because I couldn’t really find them collected anywhere and thought they should be. They give the film some cohesion in life affirming statements dispersed at appropriate moments, and delivered by Judi Dench in perfect pitch portraying life as the character of Evelyn Greenslade.

Evelyn writes from the Marigold Hotel, Jaipur (done as a monologue voice over):

Day 9:
Old habits die easier than we think, and new ones form. No longer do I reach out in the morning for Radio 4. My news comes instead from the Jaipur Herald. Soon, I might even grow accustomed to the storm of car horns and vendors. Can there be anywhere else in the world that is such an assault on the senses? Those who know the country of old just go about their business. But nothing prepares the uninitiated  for this riot of noise and color; for the heat, the motion, the perpetual teeming crowds. Sonny is conducting his own personal assault on our senses with a flow of exotic dishes he demands daily from the kitchen. Mooli moong dal, bagara baingan, banjara gosht, paneer methi chaman, mutton vindaloo. Initially, you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side. This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it, and not just cope, but thrive.

Day 22:
Like Darwin’s finches, we are slowly adapting to our environment. And when one does adapt, my god, the riches that are available. There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. Only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws.

Day 45:
Of course, it was inevitable. Put enough old people in the same place, and it won’t be too long before one of them goes. Graham died of a heart condition which he’d had for many years, so he knew before he left that he would not be coming back. He wanted to die in India, he just didn’t want any of us to know. He kept his promise to take me to Udaipur. Manoj wanted him to have a Hindu burial there by the lake at the place they had visited together. Not a holy place, although for them perhaps it was. It takes a long time for a body to be consumed. Many hours for the mourners to remember their dead. The fire must be lit at dawn and by sunset there must be nothing left but ash. 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?

Day 51:
The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment, as we always must. We came here and we tried, all of us in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling that we are too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all over again. We get up in the morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters. But it’s also true that the person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be different. Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So we must celebrate the changes, because as someone once said. “Everything will be alright at the end, and if it’s not alright, then trust me,  it’s not yet the end”.


Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade) writing and making Marigold Monologues.

There are only four of these monologues in the film, which I carefully wrote down on my second watching of the film in order to share them here. If you’ve seen the film already, then they are reproduced here for your enjoyment and further pondering. If you have not seen the film then the ‘Day 45’ may be a bit of a spoiler (fair warning) and some of the passages may not make much sense out of context. Nevertheless, these Marigold Monologues (as I call them) have bits of wisdom that seem universally relevant I believe for people of all ages to think about, with a bit of introspection and emotional connectivity towards the years gone by and the years ahead. I find them to ring true in my experience and inspirational in their own way, but like anything in such ways of thought and emotional extension, it depends on your own perspective and sense of self in such ways. I think anyone can gain a good deal from watching this film. It’s not the end and maybe there is a sequel in the works – Maybe more Marigold Monologues to come…