Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Lunchbox Review

Ritesh Batra tells us two most important things through his debut The Lunchbox:
1. You need not go to the period setting of 1950s to find a timeless love-story; and
2. A shuddh, desi romance can be created without having young on-screen characters.

Moving over.

Very few films, or I must say, only some "special" films end up to leave you with that incomplete feeling... where you go totally restless in your chair... wanting for more, may be after the end credits?... craving for the characters to end up the way you wanted. Especially, in love stories. Something what Imitiaz Ali's Rockstar and G V Menon's Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya do to me. That unsatisfactory but pleasurable feeling. And that's a satisfaction of its own. It tells how much you were into the characters and their world.

That feeling is persistent throughout The Lunchbox. 

As the characters here (Ila and Saajan) communicate only through hand-written letters hidden inside the lunchboxes that Ila (disarming Nimrat Kaur) dispatches and gets wrongly delivered to Saajan Fernandes (stunning Irrfan Khan). Each of those lunchboxes brings in that feeling, within those letters. We are always as excited to know what they have written to each other as much as they are, in their different worlds... one is a lonely housewife in Malad trying to revive her marriage and other, a widower from Bandra about to retire from his government job.

These Bombay suburb places make Ila and Saajan more identifiable to us. But, "The city has changed," says Saajan in one of his letter to Ila when she tells him about his neighbourhood uncle who's been lying on bed in coma and could only watch a rotating Orient ceiling fan since 10 years, "He wouldn't find a seat in train or bus now, if he rises from his bed, and would prefer going back to watching his ceiling fan." 

Ila and Saajan live in their old-world microcosm, untouched of post-2000 technologies whatsoever like the Internet or cellphones (Ila learns some of her recipes on a transistor radio while Saajan plays Bhutanese songs on it). This beyond time-space constraints make them those real lives we want to see in cinema. And, there are cinematic moments in their believably real lives too:

When Ila learns that her pen-friend is someone called Saajan, she asks her aunty to play songs from the film of his namesake without telling her anything about his name. She enjoys "Mera dil bhi kitna pagal hain" on a cassette and he hears it through beggars in local train. Who doesn't like to have that filmy way of having romantic songs as background music when they fall in love? And, in the letter, next day, she tells him that auntie played songs from Saajan yesterday, co-incidentally. It's the same sweet lie we tell on online chatting. And she covers it up too, saying, "Chitthi mein toh koi kuch bhi likh sakta hain."

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