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From Alfred Hitchcock’s macabre motel in Psycho (1960) to the swanky hotel in The White Lotus (2021), the hospitality culture has come a long way on the big and small screen. As the new hotel-centric drama miniseries, Nine Perfect Strangers, starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy, dropped on Amazon Prime Video last week, we take a look at some of the best hotel films and series you could check out before you check-in. 

The White Lotus (2021)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

With a satirical narrative straight out of an academic discourse on colonialism and imperialism, The White Lotus, a 6-episode series, focuses on the lives of a bunch of rich, white, egocentric tourists on a detox vacation at the titular hotel in Hawaii. It also throws light on the challenges of the hospitality industry and how goof-ups, deliberate or not, can always be covered up with a contrived but convincing smile.

Oriental, like many Hollywood films set in the east, in its approach to Hawaii, The White Lotus uses generous amounts of tribal calls, congas and bongos as a foreboding background score. There is something eerie in store for The White Lotus. But what happens in the Lotus, stays in the Lotus. Or does it?

Hotel Transylvania (2012-)

Streaming on: Netflix

Widower Count Dracula is very protective of his daughter Mavis, and has his mind stuck in the dark ages. He believes humankind is a threat to the survival of fellow monsters. From this insecurity stems Hotel Transylvania, a high-end hotel exclusively for monsters. Everything is fun and rosy for years till Mavis’ 118th birthday. She wants to be independent and venture off to human settlements. And if that wasn’t nightmarish enough for Dracula, his daughter falls in love with a human who accidentally gatecrashes her birthday party.

Psycho (1960)

Streaming on: YouTube

Six decades later, Psycho’s shower scene is still the stuff of film school legend. Who killed that lady at the motel and what came of him forms the crux of the latter, gripping half of the film. A Hitchcockian horror classic, this film has money, mummies and everything in between.

If you are one of those people who love the subgenre ‘horror at the hotel’, then Psycho is for you.

The Shining (1980)

Streaming on: YouTube

Ever had a writer’s block so bad that you wanted to pick up an axe and wreak havoc throughout the city? Jack Torrace (Jack Nicholson) felt the same as an aspiring writer and part-time caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. Watch the film to find how another caretaker and his family at the Overlook succumbed to its mentally harrowing and haunting events, which could only be tapped by “the shining.” Tip: the movie is best enjoyed with generous servings of red rum.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

While at the now sombre but once stately Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictional, picturesque country of Zubrowka, a renowned author interviews the owner Zero Moustafa about the heydays of the hotel. What follows is a 17-cast ensemble taking us through 1930s Zubrowka, wherein a war-torn refugee Zero (Tony Revolori) applies to be a bell-boy at The Grand Budapest Hotel under the aegis and guidance of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), a suave man of the most medieval romantic mannerisms. The rosy and pacy life at the hotel is disrupted when dowager Madame D, a frequent hotel visitor and Gustave’s love interest, dies mysteriously. Consequently, Gustave is charged of her murder. What happens to him then? What happens to Zero? What happens to the hotel?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Streaming on: YouTube

Much like the second-innings home in Lage Raho Munnabhai, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is advertised as Jaipur’s ideal retirement home. Several British retirees buy into this advertisement and venture forth to India to plan for the little future they have left. Snobbish, xenophobic or plain disinterested at first, the Brits slowly come to terms with India’s ways, forging and letting go of loving bonds on the way.

A heartwarming watch, the film lives up to its Indian moral: “Everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.”

Namak Halaal (1982)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English because English is a very phunny language”, says Arjun Singh (Amitabh Bachchan), a village simpleton who has been sent off to a hotel in the city by his doting daddu (Om Prakash) to ‘stand up on his feet’ and be a faithful servant to Raja Singh (Shashi Kapoor). What conspires between the twain is a rehashed but rewatchable rendition of the Bollywood masala films of the 70s, together with past rivalries and fresh blossoming romances. Watch the film also for its songs, especially Raat Baaki Baat Baaki – one of the first disco songs of Bollywood helmed by the man of gold, Bappi Lahiri.

Teesri Manzil (1966)

Streaming on: Zee5

Rupa (Sabina), a jilted lover jumps off the third floor of a hotel. Her vengeful sister Sunita (Asha Parekh) blames the hotel drummer Rocky (Shammi Kapoor) for this. Is Rocky guilty? Is he innocent? Did Rupa actually commit suicide? These questions form the foundation of Nasir Hussain’s taut script.  

In short, everyone does what they do best in Teesri Manzil. Shammi Kapoor rocks and rolls his way through the film, Asha Parekh plays the quintessential emotional heroine of the 60s, Vijay Anand directs gorgeously-shot song sequences and the RD Burman-Nasir Husain partnership of movies and melodies begins with a rollicking breakthrough. 

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