Rating: 4.5/5 stars (Four and half stars)
Star cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar, Nakul Vaid, Yashvi Puneet Nagar, Lillete Dubey
Director: Ritesh Batra
What’s Good: The film is an utter culinary and cinematic delight ladled up with the right amounts of love and warmth.
What’s Bad: Nothing
Loo Break: Don’t even think of one.
Watch or Not?: The Lunchbox within the first few minutes made its way into the cockles of my heart. Elegantly done, the film conjures a connoisseur variety of cinema where love and romance are stretched beyond the contours marked out by epic Bollywood romances. The love here has so much tenderness, eulogizes companionship of two very unlikely people who are drawn close over notes exchanged via a lunchbox, which almost builds up as a character in their story. Films like these are gratifyingly piquant and should definitely not be missed!
Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a housewife whose life shuffles between her negligent husband and little daughter. Besides the other chores of the day, the woman is constantly fussing about making the right degree of delicious dish for her husband’s tiffin, that will make him notice her.
However, the immaculate dabbawallahs are just human and they reach her loving dabbah to a loner Government officer Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan). On the edge of retiring, the man has no spice in his life and nothing to look forward to. He is constantly dodging the man who is to replace him (Nawzuddin Siddiqui) and is nasty to the kids who play outside his house.
The lunchbox and the letters that are exchanged with them changes his life as he begins to get drawn back to liveliness. His somber life finds some color via the food Ila sends and their interactions are so perfectly entrancing that the two begin a journey towards companionship and love over their scribbled notes.
The Lunchbox Review: Script Analysis
The film has the aroma of immortality. Cooked up amidst the clutter of Mumbai city that is a familiar sight, the film uses unforgettable props to latch on to your memories. The lasting sights of passing trains and messy government office, the spirited dabbawalahs who feed scores of people everyday unfailingly; the ordinary setting of the story also manages to adhere us in its unvarying folds of familiarity. And yet the remarkable beauty of its ironies make the film intrinsically moving. There can be no dispute that writer, director Batra has penned down a exquisite story which its fabulous actors have evolved.
A scattered story of a neglected housewife and a salaried man on the brink of turning into a pensioner converges with an enduring beauty. The woman cooks with the hope that she’ll one day find the recipe that will make her husband notice her beyond the shadow of the woman who inhabits their Malad home. Saajan Fernandez is a man stuck in the labyrinth of loneliness. Essentially a loner with fractured memories of his deceased wife and an dull life, Ila manages to spice up his tiffin and his life with her spices and dishes. By a mysterious mistake of dabbawalahs, the tiffin she packs for her husband reaches Saajan and the two strike up a relationship over letters.
She bares the marbles of her boring marriage and that she suspects her husband is having an affair. He recounts to her, the memories of his wife laughing over and over at the same jokes of Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and recording them while he kept looking back at her reflection. There is endearment in every scene that comes on the frame – if you can find, there is beauty is every slide the director has come up with.
Even supporting characters are hued up. Nawazuddin plays Shaikh, the man who is to replace Saajan at work, a chattering young man, who chops vegetables on his work files and makes references of his dead mother’s sayings (one who he has no clue about) simply to add weight to his lines. Such characters immediately grab your fondness. The voice of Bharti Achrekar as Deshpande Aunty who is fussing over her coma stricken husband’s diapers is another character who secures a place in your heart even when you never catch a glimpse of her. She is intriguingly used and such a delight throughout.
If you have ever seen the film The Great Indian Butterfly, you’ll know why the constant referencing to Bhutan is both affectionate and yet a fallacy. However, the idea has been evolved with a hammering subtlety. The significance of the wrapping lines have far reaching impact than we can fathom while we hear them over and over again in the film. ‘Sometimes even the wrong train can reach you to the right station!’
The Lunchbox Review: Star Performances
Irrfan is never short of astounding and the actor does it yet again. He slips into the role of a man years older to him with incredible ease and yet he never falters at his marvelous sense of thoroughly syncing with his characters. He is terrific and somehow so charming in his role, that even as the retiring old man he will make your heart skip a beat.
Nimrat Kaur is startlingly natural. She is not the eye candy heroine, she is a surprisingly magnificent actress who understands every shade of her character, performing it with startling beauty.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui essays his role with keenness and he is laudably brilliant at his work. As a supporting character, he is hard to miss for the wonderful chemistry that oozes out of his camaraderie with Irrfan. A few of them makes for the film’s most highlight moments.
The Lunchbox Review: Direction, Editing and Music
Debutant Ritesh Batra dishes out in his first film, that many filmmakers can’t achieve in years. His characters have the mystic charm of yesteryear beauty. He makes his film revel in simplicity as the two protagonists are drawn to each other via letters and food. The metaphor of Food emerges to be as real as it symbolically denotes moods and feelings – from the well-licked lunchbox that swells Ila’s morale as she is appreciated to the empty box which symbolizes her dejection! The idea has previously been aced in Rahul Bose’ National Award winning Bengali film Antaheen, but Batra’s treatment did not use melancholy as much as it used the magic of ironies. He weaves an enchanting world within his film, all of which are strangely recognizable. The way he decided to end his film could not have been better -open ended that leaves the decision of the story to its viewers. I being a hopeless romantic have finished it off in my head on a positive note.
The film’s screenplay has no sags and for music it has the title track of 90s’ hit film Saajan that has far reaching meaning than just being synonymous with the name of its lead man.
The Lunchbox Review: The Last Word
The Lunchbox is one of those films that will mesmerize you with dripping simplicity. Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur build their characters intimately without meeting each other for once all through the film. Normally such stories lose their steam soon enough, but Batra’s expertise handles the film with its ingrained beauty of an unlikely love story. It is such a potent and effective film that I can’t really settle for anything less than 4.5/5. It is only sometimes that one encounters an unblemished film, this ranks among those few for me!
The Lunchbox Trailer
The Lunchbox releases on 20th September, 2013.
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