I saw this movie a couple of months ago but didn’t post a review because I felt the original trailer (without subtitles) did not do justice to the film. Now I see that a new trailer (with English subtitles) has been put up, which is considerably better.
Not that trailers are required to recommend a film, in fact, if you want to keep everything a surprise for yourself, don’t watch the trailer! You could watch the second link (to a song) that I have given at the end, to get an idea of the characters and photography.
This film has done well in mainstream cinema even though it does not pander to Bollywood stereotypes and deals with serious issues (in a slightly romanticized fashion). Perhaps it has done well simply because people are tired of watching continuous and excess glamour and endless song and dance sequences, perhaps it is because there is so much food in the story (food is stated to be the spine of the film, but I don’t think that is correct, however, food does seem to envelope or affect almost all the characters in one way or the other) or perhaps because it is an unusual love story.
I like the film for several reasons – the main one being its intelligent and sensitive approach to showing lives of different kinds of people or communities that still exist in India but that media generally doesn’t want to depict (they are so unglamorous and so not India shining! Nor are they awfully depraved or violent!!). It does so without crossing the fine line that would take it to realms of being clichéd, didactic or even dark. It is about quirks of fate that transform people’s decisions and in turn, their lives.
The main actress, Nimrat Kaur, stated in an interview that the hardest thing for her to do in the film was to de-glamourize herself. Indeed she looks remarkably unlike her off screen chic self, but this is the face of thousands of Indian women, quietly tucked away, working to keep their families together. Nimrat has given a superb performance, especially as this is her first major role in a mainstream film. The other two main actors, Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui are veterans and are a joy to watch anytime. They convey so much through their body language and style of speech; this is why it’s not worth watching a dubbed version of the film. The official DVD with subtitles has not been released yet but I’m sure it will appear in the market soon. The unseen and often heard ‘Auntie’ upstairs is done by Bharati Achrekar , a renowned Marathi actress. All the other actors are very competent in their respective roles.
The Lunchbox was originally meant to be a documentary on dabbawallahs (the large army of people who unerringly deliver tiffin boxes from place to place in Mumbai) but eventually took the shape of a romantic feature film. (It is hard to believe that it is the first feature film made by the director, Ritesh Batra.) As mentioned earlier, this film has no real songs. It has one borrowed song though, which adds a bit of charm and makes those unpalatable truths much easier to bear. How does one deal with a life of ‘quiet desperation’? Is life really as bad as one makes it out to be? And finally – as the movie posters and trailers ask – can you fall in love with someone you have never met? The film lets you find answers for yourself as it unfolds.
Apart from the romance and the philosophy, the well edited script and the skillful photography (showing the city of Mumbai), there are some tongue in cheek moments that are wonderfully done. One in particular is when Ila (Nimrat) asks a dabbawallah whether her carefully packed tiffin box is reaching the right destination and he replies, “We have been commended by Prince Charles and Harvard; we never make mistakes!” But as Shaikh (Nawazuddin) says, “Sometimes the wrong train can take you to the right station.” Watch this heartwarming and thought provoking film to get a glimpse of India that is rarely shown on screen. I am attaching two links: the first is the trailer with English subtitles and the second is the small song sequence from the film.