Release Date : Sep 20,2013
The Lunchbox
Review by : Prathap
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Production: Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Karan Johar, Siddharth Roy Kapur
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nimrat Kaur
Direction: Ritesh Batra
Screenplay: Ritesh Batra
Story: Ritesh Batra
Background score: Max Richter
Cinematography: Michael Simmonds
Dialogues: Ritesh Batra
Editing: John F. Lyons

We might have finger print recognition on our smart phones and forgotten how our handwritings even look, but the charm of a simple, handwritten letter delivered to us invokes a million emotions. There are signs that there is still hope in the world despite, in Sajan Fernandes’ words “in the overpopulated Mumbai, everyone wants what the other has.” And that is why fairy tale gems like Lunch Box stand out in Bollywood teeming with on-the-face, preposterously made movies.

Lunch Box is the story of two strangers – one desperate for love and belonging and the other a brooding, loveless middle-aged person staring at the face of retirement. It is perhaps the contrasts they share in their lives that bring them together or the single connecting factor of lovelessness. Their relationship goes through the fragility of emotions, pushing them to take life changing decisions.

Saajan Fernandes, the soon-to-be-retired official, gets delivered a lunch box out of mistake – of food made by Ila for her husband to salvage her relationship. Sajan and Ila start sending messages in the lunch box.

Director Ritesh Batra knows his Mumbai very well. From the only-voice-acting aunty in the floor above Ila who provides her with wise (and sometimes otherwise) suggestions, to the local trains where even first class coaches are crammed with office goers jostling for space with each other, to the routines of dabbawalas and their stern-faced refusal that their delivery never goes wrong - Mumbai is a character in the movie.

His story unfolds in Ila’s kitchen and her desperate attempts to save a sinking relationship. Every single character is the vehicle of numerous delightful tales in the movie. Ila and her aunty’s story, Saajan and his wisdom laced tales about life in Mumbai. At some level, Lunch Box is a delicious amalgam of tales that make all of us humans, forming indispensable part of our lives.

Irrfan transforms his Saajan who is a lonesome, almost socially inept, friendless widower on the brink of retirement to a likeable middle-ager as the movie progresses. Only an actor of Irrfan’s caliber can portray a transformation like that with his nuanced acting. As his friendship with the stranger evolves, Irrfan shows such tiny changes in his brooding personality – the embryonic love for the stranger thaws him, enabling him to become a better person.

Nimrat as Ila is the movie’s face and her desperate-for-love-from-her-husband housewife is one of the best performances in Bollywood this year. Her initial conundrum about the weird communications with a stranger through the lunch box becomes a regular affair – a little relief from her khana-banao-bhejo routine. When her frustrated mother tells her that khana-banana-dava-dena is her shackled routine for her just deceased father and it strikes her that she doesn’t have to do it anymore, Ila realizes that her life is not very different from taking that path. Nimrat is hands down the movie’s star performer.

Nawazzudin is as delightful as he is irksome. When his attempts at learning accounts from Irrfan fail, he is pushed to the corner to tell him that he will learn it himself, breaking Irrfan’s unbreakable silence and irrefutable will. Even actors in their miniscule roles, Lilette Dubey and Bharati Achrekar in her voice role as the aunty, prove to be revelations.

The brilliant cinematography that uses only natural light is another mood stabilizer for the movie. Max Richter’s background feels like the pebbles you feel when you step into a cool stream – their chillness providing comfort to your feet, yet their presence is indistinguishable in the water.

Ritesh’s writing is slow to unfurl but there are moments when the movie almost makes your heart stop. Like Irrfan’s eager expectation every afternoon for the lunch box. What if the dabbawallas realize their mistake and the lunch box is delivered to the right person? What of the relationship? You long for these answers every time the peon distributes the lunch boxes and sigh of relief when the dabba is delivered at Irrfan’s desk. And you can’t help but feel moistness in your eyes when little joyful scenes - like when Irrfan finds himself in a street artist’s painting are delivered.

Watch Lunch Box for you might not find a fulfilling movie watching experience in the near future. Watch it for Irrfan’s Saajan Fernandes and Nimrat’s Illa and how they find happiness in their suffocating lifes.

Verdict: A must watch modern day fairy tale.
( 4.0 / 5.0 )



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