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The Lunchbox: Meeting Point Of Two Bland and Forlorn Entities

October 28, 2013 | By

The Lunchbox is an amazing film, a highly commendable and deft cinematic creativity.

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The Lunchbox

Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) enjoys the aroma before opening the lunchbox

The Lunchbox is an amazing film, a highly commendable and deft cinematic creativity.

FFI’s decision not to send it for the Oscar may have disappointed some, but I must admit watching the film is a hilarious experience.  I loved and enjoyed the film to my heart’s content, may be not in the way in which the connoisseurs appraise the nuances of a film but certainly like a viewer who understands and appreciates good cinema.

The Lunchbox is the felicitous feature debut of Ritesh  Batra, the immaculate writer-director of the film.

The plot,  the narratives, the crafting of the characters, the tone,  the details of the spaces the characters traverse – all these are free from hyperbole and exaggeration, flowing seamlessly as a spontaneous fountain.

A superb placidity and simplicity revolves around an unusual love story that emanates from the scribbled notes tucked in a lunchbox wrongly delivered to another table. This undercurrent of coincidence stays with the thematic content all along.

The best films are made from truly simple stories and this stands true for The Lunchbox. At its core, The Lunchbox is a beautiful love story with some Indian flavor, told endearingly with honesty, in an unalloyed organic fashion.  The story is simple but its appeal is unanimous.

By its sheer simplicity, the film charms, endears and fascinates us with an innocuous story about two characters, dealing with their individual problems all alone.

The Lunchbox

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) chooses the vegetables carefully to prepare some delicacies

Hardly anybody cares of the existence of the unremarkable beings like Farnandez or Ila amid the swirl of modern Mumbai.  After watching the film I leave the theatre with a craving to look into the lives of people around me.

The film is a rare gem, a masterpiece not to be swallowed in hurry. It has a lingering taste. One has to relish it. It is a slice of real life, a slice of unique romance.

The correlation between the situations of the characters via letters has been showcased amazingly. At the heart of The Lunchbox is Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a middle class housewife from Malad struggling to save her marriage in the face of her philandering husband.

She, like many of us, thinks that a way to man’s heart is through his stomach. So she starts her attempts to woo her husband by packing him scrumptious home-made lunch, delivered by Mumbai’s dabbawaalas.

Only the dabba erroneously lands on the desk of a grumpy clock-bound accountant, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), a widower, from Bandra who is on the brink of retirement. Saajan licks clean the lunchbox. This, for the neglected Ila, is appreciation for her culinary skills.

Even when she realizes that the lunchbox was not delivered to her husband but to somebody else, she continues the delivery at the wrong address because she starts receiving handwritten notes from Saajan in it and she replies to him daily, giving birth to an unlikely companionship between the two.

A beautiful old-world style romance blossoms gradually between the two, through sweet, honest and moving notes exchanged in the dabba. Fernandes, the Christian resident from Bandra, writes in English. Ila, the melancholic housewife in Malad East, in Hindi. There is an instant connection.

So what if none of them know what the other looks like. Batra convinces viewers that in the age of social networking and email, a romance built on hand-written letters is possible. Soon Ila and Saajan’s lives start revolving around these brief messages in which personal thoughts and messages are exchanged.

Both want to break away from the dull routines of their lives.  The director meticulously points   out how two lonely entities reach out to each other through simple, hand written notes in the age of emails and smart phones.

The Lunchbox

Sharing lunch with colleagues is a common practice in the daily life of the office goer

The affable entry of Aslam Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Dongri resident who eventually takes Saajan’s place when he retires is a worthy add-on and very much proportionate and befitting with the canvas of the plot.

The filmmaker juxtaposes the three solitary players in the film against the fast-paced life of overcrowded trains and buses in Mumbai.

In many ways, the director paints a nostalgic picture of the Mumbai of yore that has long become history alongside the super-busy city where people are have no time for each other.

His three principal characters are still people who belong to that old world and are therefore misfits in the large metropolis but are yet very much a part of it, struggling and striving to achieve balance in an imbalanced world. It is a story about dissociating from the past and finally moving in the direction of a new horizon of life.

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Tapan Dasgupta, a business associate caters to corporate brand promotion and scribbles at pastime to shape out literary forms.
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