Khalid Hasan Khan's Hotal has nothing to do with Pakistan's film industry other than the fact that it features Pakistani actors including Meera Jee. It is being dubbed as a Hindi film made outside Bollywood so the blame is on Bollywood for the story jumps, the editing blunders, and a story line that has no end to it. What if the actors are Pakistani, the language is Hindi, and the level of horror, painstaking.
Hotal has all the ingredients of a psycho thriller except that the plot is beyond any logic whatsoever. There is both a black cat and a snake that can metamorphose into humans. An Om Puri lookalike to confuse the audience. And an 'old Lady who lives on the moon', literally. Khalid Hasan Khan’s intentions seems good and it appears his budget was limited, but so is the audience's patience level for a film like this.
The story begins with Meera’s character Kashi rescuing a stray black cat from a cinema. The cat runs away and returns as a laddoo-holding Poornima who after munching on them wants to suddenly have a baby (you read that right). Her hubby also agrees (after eating the laddoo of course) but eventually changes his mind after meeting with the doctor who advises him to go for an abortion at a ‘hotal’ outside the city. Before you know it, Poornima murders the doctor and a CBI inspector arrives on the scene for a completely unrelated case. He befriends a girl, who is on the lookout for her twin sister's murderer, so that they can pose as a couple because the Hotal is for couples only.
The rest of the film revolves around these characters with Hotal's staff adding both a humourous and a horror element to the narrative. The climax, however, beats all the world’s sanity and leaves one boggled but not necessarily in a positive way; we see an elderly woman appear on screen, take away a baby and introduce herself as ‘the Old Lady on the Moon'. With a set of unimpressive, below-average dialogues, a lack of background music in some scenes and hardly a defining moment that separates fantasy from reality, Hotal makes for a film that is more eerie than scary.
While Meera won an award for the movie, the person who actually leaves a bit of an impact is the choreographer-turned-actor Farrukh Darbar as the Bellboy and the receptionist because the scary receptionist is mute! Dr. Shaam (Sadiq Amin) as the antagonist reminds one of Indian actor Om Puri and does justice to his role. Had the story and editing been any better, people may have actually just enjoyed Hotal instead of leaving cinema halls questioning their own existence.
One cannot end the movie review without reflecting on the three items numbers – two songs and a dance sequence – that beat even the gandasa-endorsing cinema of the mid ’90s in vulgarity. It’s ironic that the Pakistani censor board didn't chop off these numbers, which were there only to add "colour" to the film. They conveniently censored crucial scenes from Airlift, but didn't feel the need to object to these semi-nude dances. Next time the censor board raises concerns over a film, they must be reminded that they gave a clean chit to Hotal, which was in dire needed of passing through a Quality Control Authority instead of the Censor Board.