Movie Review The Lunchbox
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Director: Ritesh Batra
Rating: * * * *
The film set in Mumbai, revolves around a mistaken delivery in dabbawala (lunchbox service) of Mumbai
A debut feature ,an unprepossessing Indie venture with none of the usual trappings of Bollywood, by writer-director Ritesh Batra starring two of India’s most renowned names in the festival circuit, ‘The Lunchbox’ is a sterling example of how subtle yet profound rooted cinema can be. It’s a thoroughly Indian story that is likely to enchant even the most jaded of audiences across the world. Despite the titular allusion tofood, this film doesn’t really have the Michellin grandeur of a foodie genre flick- instead what it narrates, and profoundly at that, is a simple tale of a genuine delivery mix-up of lunchboxes leading to an intriguing ventilation of fears ,hopes and desires between two individuals standing precariously on the cusp of drastic change in their individual lives.
After 35 years in the claims department Saajan Fernandes(Irrfan Khan) is supposed to be breaking in his understudy , a dogged though inexperienced and clueless, Aslam Shaikh(Nawazuddin Siddiqui), when the mix-up of dabbas transports him to a whole new experience. At first he is just glorying in the exquisite aromas and lip-smacking taste of a splendid home-cooked meal. But when the notes start coming in , he is as much susceptible to confiding his innermost anxieties as the neglected housewife Ila(Nimrat Kaur),who sends him such splendid fare, intended at first for her disinterested husband (Nakul Vaid)- under advice shouted from upstairs by a very interested neighbor(Bharati Achrekar-who is heard but never seen). After several such seemingly innocuous (chaste and brief) confidences being exchanged the two begin to feel like kindred spirits floating towards each other … when reality bites. Their aloneness and dissatisfaction are highlighted by their views on society today contrasting with their old-fashioned ideals and their own inability to fit-in and fight it out.
Batra does well to distinguish his characters with backgrounds that are diametrically different from each other ,in terms of class and religion , yet imbuing them with similarities that connect at the soul level. All three lead characters are essentially human with frailties and niceties evident in their behavior and actions. Batra allows the interplay between them to remain natural and unaffected , to the point of eschewing all attempts to pander to audience expectations. The manner in which he builds up tension while allowing the audience to ruminate on whether the two will meet, makes for a telling experience. It’s a simple, unaffected style that allows for natural overtones to come through. Even the pace is enabling.The able lensing by Michael Symmonds adds claustrophobic and spatial dimensions to the experience. The space within the homes, the neighbourhood, the work areas, the daily journeys on jam-packed local trains, everyday angst – all come across with illuminating impact. Irrfan Khan’s embodying of Sajan Fernandes will stand-up as one of his very best performances. Nawazuddin’s Aslam is also notably sharp in rendition. Those two master performances were as expected. The biggest surprise comes from pretty stage actress Nimrat Kaur who makes her presence felt even with two such towering performances beside her. Her’s is a performance that is powerfully emotive and supremely impactful. And she achieves it with such effortless grace. Her every expression hits the nail on the inner turmoil of a woman coming to terms with her lot in life. John Lyons’editing and Max Richter’s background score add more enobling power to the experience. This is feel-good cinema , infinitely touching and enchanting in it’s spiel and in my opinion is India’s best bet for the foreign film category at the Oscars besides ‘Ship of Thesus.’ This is never-to-be-missed cinema!