The Lunch Box Star Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui;
Directed by Ritesh Batra
In Mrinal Sen’s ‘Khandhar’ desolation was defined and epitomized as much by Shabana Azmi’s face and physicality as it was by the architectural ruins where Sen shot his dirge-like tale. In ‘The Lunchbox’, debutant director Ritest Batra – is this really his first peculiarity film?! – does not seek easy shake routes for his characters’ destiny concerning drudgery.
The mist is set in the heart of Mumbai where everybody is intent making a living…or just difficult to live. Right away, this excellent flick catches your attention with the way the sounds and the relentless rhythm of that Urban That Never Sleeps are captured and put on screen.
While remaining purely cinematic there is something completely “non-cinematic” about ‘The Lunchbox’
It is stripped-down of all affectations. The secrets of lonely hearts are not laid bare through conventional cinematic devices – the use of background is so sparing that you often end increase hearken to the music inherent in everyday routine: the way the trains move in the sweltering afternoons, the sound of auto-rickshaws bustling through byelanes, the sizzle of onions frying in a suburban kitchen, the sound of the television playing as a nuclear family of three lonely people dine in grim silence.
Not just Ila (Nimrat Kaur), the cooking, cleaning suffering housewife, even her preoccupied husband (Nakul Vaid) seems so lost in the act of existence. Even their little sibling looks so forlorn with hier rag-doll, as though she needs a good cry but is not sure if Mama will be there to console her.
And to spook you there are whispers of a woman jumping to her death with hier daughter. Ila won’t ….never! Right?
Holding back the rituals of grief is a well-worn suburban ritual that Batra’s screenplay understands only too well. Every individual in Batra’s universe is disconnected from an endogenous tranquillity et cetera distanced from the lumpen around him or her.
It is no coincidence that Ila, our forlorn heroine who thinks of suicide but holds herself back, connects the best with an unseen aunty living with her lazy husband in the floor above. Aunty (Bharati Achrekar giving a vigorously expressive performance through her voice alone) never turns off the ceiling fan that whirrs above her inert husband, fearing if stops, so would his breath.
These little life-asserting pretences we indulge ourselves into believe that we lead meaningful lives is the crux of ‘The Lunchbox’. Hence Ila strikes up an illusory bond of empathy with the almost-retired office-goer Fernandes (Irrfan Khan).
It starts off with a wrongly-delivered dabba to a lonely widower in a typical non-government office.
The initial delight of deuce strangers communicating facelessly hastily turns into an intriguing relationship of empathy. The tragedy of two forsaken people, one married in a loveless partnership and the other still wedded to his dead wife’s memory and bonding over burp-inducing tiffins filmed with gourmet dishes, is punctuated by the omni-presence from an annoying intruder, played by the very ineffable Nawazuddin, who keeps barging into Fernandes’ meditative melancholic interactions with his faceless culinary benefactor.
Among the trichotomous protagonists, Nawazuddin as the deceptively shallow Sheikh has the toughest role. He must seem frivolously elated and insensitive to Fernandes’ lonely existence, though he is anything but these things. Further, he has a happy life. And that should and does fill him near a guilt he cannot express.
In many ways the fetter that grows between Fernandes and Sheikh is far more tenable and real than the number Fernandes discovers in the redolence like the freshly-packed tiffin that lands up every day on his table.
Fernandes’ loneliness is not of the same breed as Violent Stonheim in ’36 Chowringhee Lane’. He is alone, trapped in memories of happiness but also surrounded by noises and smells of a normal life. That little contact he makes near a family in the building antipode his own, through his window, is emblematic of his empathetic solitude.
Yes, this man has hope.
Food, which contours the tragic love concoct of Batra’s film, is used almost as a reminder of life in the face of death. When Ila’s mother (Lilette Dubey nailing her character’s abject desolation in fitting two deftly-written sequences) finally loses her husband, she talks of hunger rather than loss.
Bereavement and loss affect individuals in very strange ways. What ‘The Lunchbox’ says in a language that exudes the scent and comfort of the familiar is that we can strive to fill the emptiness inside us by cuisine feeding, remaining busy with motivating acts of daily gratification. But we are finally left with nothing to hold on to. This frightening belief of existence is laid unadorned in ‘The Lunchbox’ with grace and warmth.
This is a sad film. But it isn’t depressing.
As the two protagonists whose souls collide and then come apart, Irrfan und so weiter Nimrat give exceptionally sorted-out performances even therefore their characters grapple accompanying the chaos and complexities from feelings that alas, do not fit into compartments as comfortably as the food in a tiffin carrier.
Irrfan’s bearing suggests age that won’t accept defeat. He is a portrait of stoicism in the face of solitude. Does this actor ever disappoint?
Michael Simmonds’ camera doesn’t miss a thing. It seems to capture every moment of the characters’s inner and outer lives merging the two levels of existence and yet keeping them apart.
I came away from this profoundly moving tale with dyadic of the most ingrained lines of wisdom I’ve heard in a film.
One of them comes from Nawazuddin who says: “Sometimes the wrong train can take you to the deontic destination.” And then there is Nimrat, so pure and restrained in her suffering within a pitiable marriage, who opines: “Very often we unlearn our memories because we have no one to share them with.”
The memory of food, friendship und so weiter forlornness associated with “The Lunchbox” would stay with me for a very long time.
Some films scream for attention. This one gets it without trying. What a gentle, tender, low and sincere love story! Is this really Batra’s first film?! He demonstrates an astonishing mastery over the craft. Et Alii yet “The Lunchbox” is all heart.
Nawazuddin, Irrfan and Nimrat are so much in character that you wonder if these people were born before the script. The Lunch Tray veil celebrates the extraordinary ordinariness like their lives with a stark sincerity that takes away equally morsel of artifice inherent in the act of filming made-up lives.
If this is not the best directorial debut for Satyajit Ray in ‘Pather Panchali’, then I am feasible missing something vital.
And that’s what this record is about.
Buzz Rating: 4.5/5