India really does captivate imaginations like nowhere else on earth. So much so, that’s it’s been the inspiration for many films. Walking in the footsteps of British acting royalty, our tour led us deep into the countryside, about 30 miles northeast of Udaipur to Ravla Khempur, an “equestrian palace” built in the 1620s. Better known as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The film follows seven disparate British retirees, as they pack up their cases and leave their somewhat uninspiring prospects in England for India. Where they have been promised a relaxed stay in the sunshine at the “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful.” However, the hotel, is far from their vision of palatial splendour. Run by the charmingly optimistic Sonny, the hotel lacks running water and fully functioning rooms.
The guests are divided upon arrival, some find the heat, the chaotic riots of noise and overwhelming arise of people unbearable. While others fall in love with the light, the colour, with the heat and constant surprises the country brings. The stories of each character intertwine to create a positively inspiring, lighthearted film, that will leave you feeling enlightened and motivated.
Completely off the beaten track, quite literally a dirt road, it’s hard to imagine Dame Judi Dench and Celia Imrie to name a few, taking this journey. As we were quite literally thrown around in the minivan as it struggled to navigate the overgrown road and twisted corners that led us to the iron gates. The recognisable yellow archways of the rooftop could be seen standing tall from behind trees, but the first thing you really see is the sign, the original sign from the film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, For the Elderly and Beautiful” a lovely token given by the film company, and obvious photo opportunity. Guided out from the Indian heat into a cool living room space, lemonade and sandwiches were offered as we settled in to watch the film before taking the grand tour.
Stepping into the courtyard for the first time makes it easy to envisage the scenes that took place here, nothing was changed in this space for the filming. Which is not what can be said for the rest, it was explained that Douglas and Jean, played by Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, their room was merely four blue sheets held up by rope. It’s amazing to think this space was completely transformed and edited to have a completely different feel. The only thing left behind from the film crew are a few props, the main being a marigold flower which sits high on the top floor wall. In real life it’s pretty, romantic and calm.
The yellow walls, the immaculately kept garden and airy rooms are far from its portrayal in the film. Outdoor lounge areas are dotted on all floors- The perfect place to read a book or enjoy a glass of wine as the sunsets. The hotel itself has 12 individual rooms, a swimming pool and lounge area, it’s also a haven too many of India’s best stallions. The stable house runs parallel to the pool area, and the horses stand proudly as they welcome you over with their kind eyes and good nature. Guests have the option to explore the surrounding area by horseback if they prefer.
Unlike the film, you won’t find any lively markets surrounding the hotel, as this was created especially for the film by production designer Alan MacDonald. Instead, Ravla Khempur lies within the tiny village of Khempur. A village that is so cut off to the outside world that their bulls are afraid of white people and children swarm to get selfies. It’s a kind-hearted community that relishes in family and tradition. Locals invite us into their homes, laugh and play with us. Home-cooked food is offered and children ask us our names and show us their bikes. It’s obvious how happy and healthy everyone is here, and how rich in life they are despite the lack of material things. It has an overwhelming sense of community that is a thing of the past in much of England.
Ending the day with a sunset dip in the pool and a gin and tonic, was really the best end to a truly great day, but I’m left wondering if they’ll ever return for a third installment?
Hello, I’m Samantha. A twenty-two-year-old fashion communication and promotion graduate. An avid shopper, lover of interiors and good coffee addict.