Update: Ritesh Batra’s award-winning drama THE LUNCHBOX has now become the highest-grossing Hindi film of 2014 in North America.
The Irrfan Khan hit has grossed $1.45 million to date surpassing the $1.3 million grossed by both Salman Khan’s latest action picture Jai Ho and the sleeper hit Queen to set a new record for this year.
The Lunchbox – Delicious – A Feast of Indian Cinema
The din, the shor of the big city: hurtling trains, crumbling bridges, millions of people rushing to work, unseeing, uncaring – all cogs in the mammoth churning wheel of the city. Yes, the city does that to you. In such a cacophony of sounds and ocean of rushing humanity, director Ritesh Batra follows a whisper, the fate of one tiffin lunchbox in this bustling metropolis.
Delivered by the intrepid dabbawallas of Mumbai, the dabbas are prepared by countless housewives for their men at work. According to a Harvard study, only one in a million boxes shunted by the dabbawallas ever gets delivered to the wrong address. The film follows the story of that one box that gets misdirected and the story of the people, the lives behind it.
The Lunchbox starring Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur & Nawazuddin Siddiqui – & Mumbai
Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) is a cheerless, aging widower who is an accountant in a company and gets lunch delivered daily, prepared by a food service. When the boxes get switched, he gets instead the lunchbox of home food cooked by Ila, (Nimrat Kaur) a young middle-class housewife who is trying to put some spice into her failing marriage by sending great food to her negligent husband.
The mix-up leads to an exchange of notes and a deepening friendship between two strangers; gradually they confide about loneliness, fears, sadness, memories – and also discover hope and courage. This sounds almost like an O.Henry tale for the couple never really meet or even talk – and yet something akin to relationship develops between two faceless people in the anonymity of the big, uncaring city. In bits and pieces you get to see their homes, their joyless lives and what even just a random human encounter can do to change stilted lives.
Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur & Nawazuddin Siddiqui…
Irrfan Khan is superb – he isn’t an actor playing Saajan Fernandes – he is Saajan Fernandes. Never a false move, never a tell-tale sign of his having any other life. The detachment in his eyes, the inward gaze, the isolation seem native to him. Surely there couldn’t be any cameras around? It’s just you, a fly on the wall, seeing this very private man in his private world.
A complete foil to his stoic character is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays Shaikh, a gregarious newcomer to the office, a cheerful survivor who was orphaned as a child and even chose his own name. With nothing to his name, he still has a lust for living which draws you into his life. Both these actors have a talent for wiping their faces clean of any star persona or past characters and they become their characters.
Nimrat Kaur, a noted actor in theater but a new face in cinema – is perfect as Ila, the lonely housewife whose magic in the kitchen still cannot bring romance in the bedroom with a cheating, indifferent husband.
Ritesh Batra & the City of Mumbai
Along with these actors, a powerful player is the city of Mumbai – with so many different facets. Ila lives in Kandvili, a conservative middle-class neighborhood while Saajan is from Bandra, an old Christian neighborhood. Batra catches the many flavors of Mumbai and this is one of the visual pleasures of the film.
This debut feature film from Ritesh Batra has been toasted internationally – it was screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and later won the Grand Rail d’Or. It’s had a special screening at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. It’s been a hit in India and also won several awards including Filmfare and StarGuild awards for best debut director and best supporting actor, as well as the Filmfare award for Best Movie. Batra’s movie, produced by Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap and Arun Rangachari, has also been jointly produced by several studios.
Like the proverbial dabba, The Lunchbox has been shunted around from festival to festival, moved through countries and often seen by people through sheer word of mouth, creating larger audiences. It is finally being shown in the US and there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen so make sure to catch it for a satisfying evening of cinema that leaves you craving for more. (It opens on February 28 in New York and Los Angeles, and in additional cities in March)
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