Thursday, 24 October 2013

57th LFF Review: The Lunchbox

Director: Ritesh Batra

Writers: Ritesh Batra, Rutvik Oza

Starring: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith

Synopsis: Thanks to an error with the delivery, Saajan (Khan) winds up with the wrong lunch. Inside his mistaken lunchbox he finds a delicious curry that continues to get wrongly delivered every day. As Ila (Kaur) – the woman cooking all this for her husband – soon discovers the mistake she leaves a note to the man eating her husband’s food. One note leads to another and eventually Saajan and Ila begin a relationship through the lunchbox deliveries.

When Western audiences think of Indian cinema we regularly associate it with Bollywood. For the hundreds of Bollywood productions that do get released there are, however, many simplistic films absent of spontaneous dancing and elaborate plotlines. You can consider The Lunchbox a Western film – with a universal story – despite being set in a bustling Mumbai with a MacGuffin that is inherently Indian (a matter Hollywood producers will surely work around when they inevitably remake this). It’s a definite crowd-pleaser, worthy of global fame and recognition.

The lead is a figure already familiar with global fame (especially from last year’s Life of Pi) - Irrfan Khan. A respected actor across the world, Khan is commanding presence, instantly keeping you transfixed on him. He often plays quiet, self-possessed characters and here is arguably no different. However, he transforms into a romantic for The Lunchbox – the older, wiser type notable in niche rom-coms. His co-star Nimrat Kaur is a lot younger and highlights the abnormal screen coupling, yet in a film where it feels natural and warranted.

Ritesh Batra and Rutvik Oza’s story is oddly identifiable whilst being clearly Indian. The lunchbox that connects the two is not something that could work for a film set in the UK or the US (without some pretty bizarre reworking). It also isn’t anchored by token characters or customary plot designs – things happen to characters that feel more natural than most Western films purely because it acts upon its own culture.

Humour and soul are just two of The Lunchbox’s charming qualities. It isn’t visually stunning, epically scored or over-acted; it is, like Khan’s persona, quiet and virtuous in its appearance. With snippets of its runtime needing trimming, it is only a few degrees away from all-round accomplishment. It’s a real shame that India did not nominate it for next year’s Oscars as it’s now only word of mouth that will hopefully get the film the audience it deserves.

Also posted on LiveForFilms

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