Director: Vijay Jayapal
Cast: Adil Hussain, Sandhya Mridul, Rajshri Deshpande
The camera stays stationary as a man walks down the slope at a distance and disappears into the valley. We stay with the image while he climbs up the hill to a close up. The opening shot is Western-like, an introduction to the main character in Vijay Jayapal‘s Nirvana Inn and to the air of a new, foreign place He is Jogiraj Chakraborty (Adil Hussain) aka Jogi and with this introductory shot, we are transported into a virginal location, for both Jogi and us. He looks around, lights a smoke and finds his way to Nirvana Inn, the staycation enterprise where he is the new manager. Both the man and the place – they shot in Manali – lend the proceedings an isolated mystery.
It’s not easy to slot Nirvana Inn into a genre. It’s not exactly horror or a supernatural thriller. There are no what-is-lurking or what-is-happening questions, and no who-could-it-be suspense. It’s languid and goes for the atmosphere, the only cliche you can accuse it of is the hill station setting. But streams and dusty roads, tall trees and vegetation, and the mountainous terrain do add detail to something psychological reeling inside Jogi. We hear snarling noises that disturb Jogi in his sleep. Vijay films it from the loft, through the walls and towards Jogi in bed, like a creature crawling within stone and into his body. He sees people whom he remembers from a different life that makes him stop in his tracks but jolts himself up soon to carry out his managerial duties.
Nirvana Inn is a film where almost every character knows what is happening right from the start, but the audience is fed in spoonfuls gradually. But the cliche is subverted in the sense that it’s not what is in the place. It’s what Jogi brought with him, what came along with him. There is an inoperable locker in Jogi’s cupboard that very well could be the Pandora’s Box that is his head. Even his name points to something else, a man looking for peace or last-ditch enlightenment.
Jogi’s Hindi flows with a heavy Assamese accent that others find difficult to understand. This dissonance in communication acts as another layer of enigma around him. Through silent shots of his past, we learn more about him, where he is really from and it falls into place. He is an outsider who is here to exorcise memories within him. He is stalked by a mysterious figure that always ends up on the other side of a riverbank, which neatly connects to a past event. And Vijay imparts shades to other characters that colour our understanding of who these people are and where we are. The slimy but god-fearing inn owner who believes in auspices of time. Leela (Sandhya Mridul), a long-time guest at the inn who is chatty and boisterous, as if she is from a universe removed from the film. Jogi also encounters an exorcism for the local mechanic’s daughter who looks possessed. Unrelated strands of parables form a blanket of solitude over the larger narrative in Nirvana Inn. There is also a femme fatale character, played by Rajshri Deshpande that only Jogi can see through. The first time they speak, she refers to him with respect – aap – but the very next line, it becomes tum.
Adil Hussain’s performance possesses a hurried physicality to it. He walks in quick strides with his hands immobile at times. Coming from Assam, the accent too is natural to him. As Jogi, the agitated state of his mind and body can be infectious. The film is really about grief and its aftermath – a thematic concern it shares with Vijay’s debut feature Revelations – the denial or reconciliation of it and the hints for all these are in Hussain’s performance. When he is offering his boss a lift to the nearby town, he says mere paas time hi time hai – I have all the time in this world. We can notice a tinge of sadness in that line though the scene has nothing to match that sentiment. Jogi might be offering a favour as the subordinate, but his restlessness is still apparent, that he has so much time when he really should not or feels that he doesn’t deserve.
The film played at Busan International Film Festival in 2019 and will be streaming for 99 hours on Cinemapreneur from December 11.
The Nirvana Inn review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.