The Lunchbox: Review 4 stars
“You fall in love when you are not in love, not when it is around and you fail to acknowledge it.”
Seems like this year I am getting all brilliant movies to see. But alas, not matching my taste. Sorry, I am not into ‘art’ or ‘parallel’ cinema or get moolah to do some PR. I write my heart out. Just like the previous ‘art’ movie I saw, I got shocked today again when it ended and I was expecting more. Déjà vu!!! Following the footsteps of Ship of Theseus and Lootera comes another awesome piece of work which speaks little but you hear a lot! Lunchbox. Hungry kya? Read on…
What do you do when the spark seems to have gone away from a relationship you are in? What do you do when you are face-to-face with ingratitude day in, day out; not even from the only person you expect? What do you do when some new, tempting but unethical, relation seems to be knocking your door? Do you give in to the temptation or do you shut door on it and return home? The movie answers these questions through Ritesh Batra’s viewpoint.
So if you are still reading this post, you know by now (not through this post, but through the trailers) that two people exchange love letters via the lunchbox a.k.a. the Dabba.
Well, I would have rather named it The Dabbawala’s Mistake or rather The One in a Million Mistake. Why? Oh, didn’t you know? The Mumbai Dabbawalas are given the prestigious six-sigma ranking for quality control, allowing them the luxury of just one mistake in a million. And that one mistake changes the lives of two people who, actually, haven’t even seen each other. Well, there is a brief reference to Harvard as well 😉
My vocabulary of this great British language is limited. So pardon me if I use the word brilliant, awesome and marvelous again and again. Well, this film deserves it. All of it. This is like Fabindia clothes, simple and sober but only the one who wears enjoys it and the one who appreciates knows the brand equity it commands. With some extraordinary, out-of-the-Universe scenes which you have to ‘experience’ to understand the depth (I loved one scene so much, I am still absorbing it), the movie is no doubt slow and steady, but surprises you with sprinkles of humor and childish pleasure as well. It is like the fragrance you feel in a temple. You have to enter in to feel it. And it can’t be written in words. Or expressed. Just experienced.
Shot in ‘real’ Mumbai, the movie showcases the hustle and bustle of this Mega Millennial city, the locals, the ‘gardi’ in the First Class to the ‘groping’ in the General, the BEST buses, the typical auto and even the notorious traffic jams. The journey of a Dabbawala. Bandra to Malad. The occasional suicides, including L What I liked specially is, the characters speak exactly the lingo a typical Mumbaikar speaks. Mind you, I am not saying other movies don’t but what I mean is, other than most famous Bombaiyya words, this movie speaks Mumbai as typical Mumbaikars do. With all the typical grammar errors which a Delhite would immediately notice. And bang, what I have heard around me in the last one year IS what I hear in this movie too. Wow!
What is amazing is the movie has NO background score but still engages you throughout. I mean, you expect some music to play when the characters are silent. Right? No, not here. Here you simply swallow and digest the words they speak. And they create the ambience. And weave the story around it. 35 years of discipline broken by an unruly trainee. 15 years of asceticism broken by a frustrated married lady. A husband flirting in office to the extent that he doesn’t even ‘touch’ his wife who stands in front of him in her honeymoon clothes!
The movie showcases lives of two people, interconnected by only one connection – loneliness. While one character, the housewife, is trying hard to get close to her husband’s heart through his stomach, trying to get him finish the Lunch in the Box daily, the other character who has lived his life the same way, engrossed in himself and work since a decade and more (see the movie to know the math), has not even realized he has grown old. They communicate through a lunchbox daily wrongly delivered (inadvertently, of course) and build a relationship purely based on emotions shared and letters exchanged. The relationship climbs to such heights that they are about to take major decisions based on the common platform they are on. And they find ‘love’. But do they, or don’t? You need to watch the movie for this!
Roles: It goes without saying that no matter what/when/where Irrfan Khan plays, he takes away the entire spotlight. Here too, you wouldn’t recognize him when you see him first. He blends into the character that much. But no, not here. Nimrat Kaur, who plays the role of the typical, lonely, scared-of-asking-her-husband-anything housewife, shares the dais with him. This lady has so marvelously portrayed the character that you won’t realize she is acting: it seems that natural for her. Hats off ma’am! And how can one forget Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Appearing a buffoon at first, fooling around, he creates his character depth through revelations throughout the story. One amazing role is played by Deshpande aunty, whom you would never see in the movie, but who is the ‘sutradhaar’ of the entire movie. Just like the Ship of Theseus, character brilliance is unparalleled in here.
What’s wrong with the essence: We all have problems and loneliness in our lives, at some stage or another. Do we start an extra-marital relation just because there is a little low in the love we share with our spouses? Or better still, will a mother of a ten year old girl start sharing her emotions and dissatisfaction with her husband to a completely unknown stranger, and that too via a letter in a lunchbox? Or does the father only have the right to? I believe neither. And is this how love happens? Infatuation, perhaps (Ask me, I can still write a thesis to differentiate the two). Sorry, I beg to differ.
Love is one thing, complaining about your relationship and considering the other person to be your Agony Aunt is another thing.
What’s wrong with the script: Won’t you recognize if your lunchbox is changed? Won’t you feel uncomfortable if suddenly, instead of wife-cooked home food, you are given hotel cooked food? And that too for days in a row? At least I would. Would you start a relationship with some stranger, even without knowing gender, and tell your problems in the second conversation? The entire movie is based on this fallacy/hypothesis.
My take: The portrayal of the story and acting is brilliant. Character development is as expected. The Himalayan emotional highs compensate for the plateau of slow motion at times. What I felt lacking was the slight illogical bend in the script itself. Unreal for a movie which has almost everything real. But good enough to order my own Lunchbox a.k.a. Dabba from Monday 😉