Could a simple lunchbox and its contents change lives? A simple line which speaks a thousand emotions and that’s what makes ‘The Lunchbox’ so special; it is so subtle yet powerful; so simple yet fascinating. A well-told old-fashioned romance, The Lunchbox gracefully unveils the trials, tribulations, fears and hopes of everyday people sans the glamour that the city of Mumbai has become synonymous with.
The film set in Mumbai and revolves around a mistaken delivery in the dabbawala service of Mumbai, which leads to a relationship between an about-to-retire and lonely widower Saajan and an unhappy housewife Illa. They start exchanging notes through their daily lunchbox. Illa, played by Nimrat Kaur symbolizes the regular middle class housewife of our society- her world revolves around her child and her kitchen. She lives in a loveless marriage, has an uncanny relationship with her neighbor whom we never see but hear across floors through a series of loud conversations and through a basket on a pulley to facilitate the exchange of masalas and a shared taste in music. Sajan Fernandes played by Irfan Khan is our unconventional protagonist; a middle age man who has spent 35 years of his life in a 9 to 5 office. A widower, who lives a simple life, likes to have a cigarette in the evening and is a no-nonsense boss who doesn’t share any camaraderie with his juniors.
Their regular or even boring life experiences a shift which forms the premise of our story. The crux of our story is the mistaken delivery which forms an unnamed relationship between the two. A mis-delivered dabba, terse notes that are unwittingly humorous and harmless suggestions effecting a profound impact that create a beautiful feel of intimacy, if not love.
The Report Card
Irfan Khan is in excellent form; his portrayal of the middle age Sajan Fernandes makes you feel for the character, it makes you feel middle age. One of the finest actors in India today, Irfan underplays his emotions and maintains a restrictive yet powerful performance throughout the film. I wish the Indian film industry realises the value of this powerhouse performer. Nimrat Kaur in her first outing creates an impact; chosen for the role of Ila after rounds of auditions, she proves the trust shown by the director with a powerful performance matching Mr. Khan from strength to strength. Nawazudin Siddiqui is the third wheel to this vehicle; the relationship between Nawaz and Irfan is beautifully portrayed; the complexities and the radical changes are handled to perfection by the director, maybe even better than the relationship of its lead characters. The rest of the secondary characters seem like fillers to the story and do manage to play their part well.
Batra’s direction is impeccable and the final cut goes well beyond the screenplay. Tension builds, humour edges in and drama unfolds in restrained measures. There isn’t a single aspect you could change to better the experience. As an audience, you want the characters to have a happy ending; you react to every missed opportunity and that’s an appreciation that Batra deserves: he manages to tell a simple story in a simple way yet make us involved and soak in the drama without realising. The film has the heart of Mumbai; which is surprising as Batra has lived most of his life abroad. He manages to bring out the best from his actors, maintaining a constant graph and modulating every aspect of production. He truly succeeds in the role as the Captain of the ship.
If that’s not all, the producers backing this one are UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Sikhya Entertainment, DAR motion pictures, NFDC (India), ROH Films (Germany), ASAP Films (France), and the Cine Mosaic (United States).This tells you that the film is not just for the Indian audience but for all.
Though after being touted as a fix as India’s selection to the Oscars, it lost to ‘The Good Road‘. I still have a different thought on the judgement taken.
If you like watching mindless comedies, you have films like ‘Grand Masti’ and ‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’ setting the cash registers running in the theatres; otherwise Lunchbox is worth your two hours. The Lunchbox is one of the finest films of Indian Cinema, the best I have seen in recent times. As the ending credits rolled; I felt hungry- for good food and good cinema.
By Ish Chandok
Image Source: Facebook@The Lunchbox