Once in a while comes a film trailer which surpasses all expectations and makes you feel like watching it the first chance you get. The trailer of ‘The Lunchbox’ is one of those trailers. After having been shown in festivals across the world, The Lunchbox releases in Indian theatres today amidst speculation of it being chosen as India’s official entry for the Oscars. With big names such as UTV, Karan Johar, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui attached to it, you don’t expect an ordinary film. So does it deliver on its promises and expectations?
Story: Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) works in the Claims department as an accountant and is on the verge of retirement. Saajan lost his wife a while back and he has no children to look after, sufficing he leads a life of a loner. Aslam Sheikh (Nawazuddin), a chirpy orphan born up on the streets of Mumbai, is appointed as Saajan’s assistant and is supposed to replace Saajan in his position when he eventually retires. On the other end of the spectrum, a Malad housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) who is neglected by her husband wants to make her husband notice her once again by feeding him delicious food. By a twist of fate and also thanks to the dabbawalahs, the lunchbox meant for Ila’s husband lands up with Saajan. The two start exchanging letters and a cute companionship develops between the two.
Direction: Ritesh Batra develops the script with utmost care, seeping it with old world charm where technology hasn’t yet made its mark. The characters and their respective loneliness are as real as it gets and Batra manages to show that effectively without ever going overboard. The manner in which the relationship between Saajan and Ila is portrayed is as far removed from flamboyish Bollywood romances as possible. The Lunchbox has shades of Hollywood classics like ‘You’ve got Mail’ but the story and treatment is delicate and intimate. Ritesh Batra has drawn heavily from his life and the characters’ authenticity vouches for that fact. Ritesh knocks it out of the park both as a writer and as a director.
Ritesh gets able support from his crew in making The Lunchbox a truly exemplary film. The cinematography (by Michael Simmonds) which captures Mumbai in all its glory makes the viewer a part of the narrative with effortless ease. The editing is one of the main reasons why a simple story like this one transpires into a film which is more than ordinary. The editor (John F. Lyons) gets it spot on as he cuts between the lives of Ila, Saajan and Aslam without using his editing scissors more than necessary.
Acting: Irrfan, by now we all know is one of the best Indian actors of all time. In The Lunchbox, he possibly delivers one of his life’s best performances. As the almost retiree Saajan, he express the deep rooted loneliness of the character by his mannerisms and speaking style. If we didn’t know already we would think Irrfan’s real age is in the late 50s. Nimrat Kaur, who caught our eyes in the Cadbury ad this year, makes the best female debut of the year. She doesn’t miss a beat as the forlorn housewife Ila trying to impress her husband. She ably competes with Irrfan and Nawazuddin in the acting department. I am interested to know the path she takes now after giving such a boisterous debut performance. Nawazuddin’s scenes with Irrfan are the highlight of The Lunchbox as the two giants of Indian author backed cinema come together for the first time since Nawaz made it big in Bollywood. Aslam is my personal favourite character in The Lunchbox and Nawazuddin’s performance has a lot to do with that.
Conclusion: The Lunchbox is a stirring, intimate tribute to the city of Mumbai and its people. It shows nostalgia, forlorn emotions, and loneliness in its raw form and yet never fails to make the viewer smile. The culinary dishes conjured up on screen is sure to make the viewer hungry. Ritesh Batra has carved an intricate tale of companionship, quite ironically, by keeping it simple. Is The Lunchbox one of the best films of recent years? Yes. Should you go watch it? Don’t wait; just make a date with this Dabba.
- Ritesh Batra’s splendid screenplay and direction
- Acting performances by Irrfan, Nawazuddin and Nimrat
- The editing is top notch
- The cinematography brings Mumbai alive on screen
- The Lunchbox is a delight for food connoisseurs
- The pace of the film might deter people who are only used to Masala movies