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John Madden: Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a responsible sequel

Director John Madden, who is back with 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', says the sequel does not "squander" what they achieved with their 2011 film, a melancholy comedy about a bunch of Britishers navigating their post-retirement life in India.

Starring veterans like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy besides Dev Patel and Tina Desai, the original, based on "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach was a dark horse at the box office and the team was happy to revisit India for the sequel, which also stars Richard Gere.

The sequel, being released in India this Friday by Fox Star Studios, is a continuation of the journey that these characters embarked on in the first part.

"It is about people who are at a certain point in their lives. They are full of lost experiences, regrets, roads not taken and aborted hopes. That informs both the comedy and the melancholy in the film," Madden, who was in India to promote the movie, told PTI in a telephonic interview from Mumbai.

Madden felt the original film touched people for its melancholic tone, a feeling similar to Anton Chekhov's plays.

"They are laughing at one moment and then you find there is something else underneath that laughter. That switch in tone has a Chekhovian quality to it. Chekhov's plays are often farcical, funny and ridiculous but underneath them lurks a terrible sense of longing and loneliness."

Since most of the characters are in the twilight of their lives, they are also grappling with a sense of mortality that Madden juxtaposed with a culture of "extraordinary optimism".

"I will invoke Shakespeare too because there is a sense of mortality in them. And you can set that against this culture of extraordinary optimism. They get a sense that life doesn't need to go downhill towards the conclusion. It can soar uphill. There is an existential quality to both the films."

Instead of going by a notion about India, Madden said they wove their experiences in the script.

"There is a parallel between the experiences we had while making the film and what these characters were going through.

We adjusted the script a lot. I wanted to convey a sense of India that I was living in rather than some other notion."

The director said they were careful in respecting the Indian culture in both the movies.

"It is a responsibility when you come into a culture to make a film about it. You don't want to be presumptuous. You don't want to be disrespectful. You want to honour what you see.

"A lot of people who come here have a certain image of India which is presented by tourist literature. It is about beautiful architecture, serenity, calm and quietness. It is all of those but also the opposite. It is about chaos, energy, vibrancy, noise and assault on the senses."

Smith shares a special bond with Patel's character of an over-eager hotel owner in the sequel.

"Her journey was the longest. In the beginning she was suspicious of the culture that she does not know or understands. She was borderline racist. But by the end of the movie, she was the co-manager of a hotel.

"In the sequel, an important relationship comes to her life which is massively transforming. It is between her and Dev Patel. He looks up to her while she helps him grow up. In fact, all of them go through a very distinct and big journey."

The budding romance between Nighy and Dench's characters continues in the sequel.

"I think why the first film worked because people realised that old people don't behave like old people, they behave like young people. They just happen to be old.

"The romance between Dench and Nighy's character is very touching. They are enormously attracted to each other and are struggling to find a way to come together. But they are haunted by very long relationships which were disastrous. They are struggling to let go of that baggage to embrace something new," he said.

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