The purest and most profound state of human existence has many names. Some call it salvation, some refer to it as moksha and others term it Nirvana. In this transcendental state, the mind is free of all earthly boundations. It reaches the zenith of compassion. And in its great wisdom, it can even forgive itself for mistakes of the past. Nirvana Inn is a journey from denial to acceptance, from acceptance to repentance, from repentance to death and subsequently to Nirvana.
Vijay Jayapal‘s sophomore effort is a symbolic masterpiece. He weaves together a story about how one life can influence others and how one death can silence many. The unique thing about the film is that you can’t restrict it to a single genre. Although several movies have taken that route, this one excels at representing varied and sometimes conflicting themes by piecing them together into a slice of one man’s life. The movie presents itself as a horror. But then takes a sharp turn into the thriller territory. It’s also a deep psychological piece dealing with suicide and survivor’s guilt. The focus changes from existentialism to attempted murder by ghosts.
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But then again, the movie makes nothing clear. Are those people actually ghosts or wandering spirits? And God, does this movie really challenge our idea of the supernatural. All in all, it is a rife breeding ground for theories, both supernatural and psychological. Taking into consideration the plethora of topoi that has been tackled by the film, we can very well understand the attention and devotion that was put into it as a whole.
The timeline within which the movie tries to execute could have resulted in a convoluted mess had it not been handled as deftly as the filmmaker did. It takes you back and forth, from the present to the past several times. The movie encourages its audiences to piece together the protagonist’s past using the visual clues that are offered to us. An interesting approach is adopted by the makers wherein they integrate a sort of shared knowledge progression. The protagonist’s repressed memories of the past constantly haunt him. The physical manifestations of his fears keep entering the Nirvana Inn. This introduces another layer of speculation to the movie.
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We soon start questioning whether the Inn is actually located in a limbo — a space where the dead who did not receive peace in life are sent. Several dialogues and scenes in the film hint towards that possibility. But that very aspect is what infinitely excites and annoys me. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good thing. Hours after I watched the film, I still think about whether the ghost possessions were just people drifting in and out of the limbo state. Each and every character, no matter how small or inconsequential their role may be, seems to have a mysterious backstory. Perhaps the story is never revealed to the audience. And that is exactly the charm that this movie holds. It is more of a mystery title without a detective rather than being a horror film.
You are forced to keep wondering about the characters and their past deeds or perhaps what they did when they were alive. And this effect is achieved not only by the amazing storytelling skills but also through some amazing acting, snappy cinematography and disturbingly devouring background scores. All the things stand well-balanced and nothing seems overdone. The lead actor, Adil Hussain does a brilliant job. His emotional breakdown is exceedingly real and believable. There is also a very well drawn contrast between the characters. Without going into the details, let’s just say, for every depressed sod, there is a free-spirited soul out there. The film represents life in its truest, variegated form as it is not constrained to a singular emotional spectrum.
Nirvana Inn is not a film. It’s a story-building machine. You will subconsciously start constructing new and distinct realities within the universe of Nirvana Inn. So much is left to the imagination that the film almost becomes an interactive medium, exactly what hardcore post-modernists would want. The director took a tall-tale and molded it into a multi-dimensional warp gate.
All in all, Nirvana Inn is an experience best savoured by viewing it first-hand. A milestone in storytelling and presentation style, it’s sure to shake things up for our industry.
Nirvana Inn world premiered at the Busan International Film Festival on October 6, 2019.