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The Lunchbox review: A scrumptious food-romance!

Movie:
The Lunchbox
Director:
Ritesh Bhatra
Cast:
Irrfan Khan,
Nawazuddin Siddiqui,
Nimrat Kaur,
Bharti Achrekar,
Avg user rating:

Food films? that wonderful genre that connects food with human emotions. And this one?s a scrumptious food-romance!

The lunchbox holds more importance in our lives than we care to acknowledge. Parents fret over and plan their children?s tiffin lovingly. They?ll add in a little surprise sometimes ? a chocolate or jam cookie? to bring in a smile. Growing up, the lunchbox is eagerly looked forward to in the office, whether from home or a canteen.

However, the humble lunchbox doesn?t hold much interest for Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan), who is about to retire from his accounting job. You realize the cruelty of this system that renders reasonably fit and fine people jobless; people who?ve spent decades in the same office, just like our protagonist.

And then there?s his younger replacement Aslam Sheikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who?s hovering around, eager to learn. Fernandez finds it all too much to take. After work, he enviously looks at families enjoying a meal in their warmly lit homes. His wife passed away some years ago.

In another home, a housewife (Ila, played by Nimrat Kaur) is hurrying up to pack her husband?s lunchbox. She speaks to the ?aunty? who lives right above her. The aunty can smell the food and tell if she's got it right or not, and this lunch box does not get the nod. Yet, Ila sends the masala-lacking dish through a basket outside the window. The film has an enviable smattering of memorable characters. Apart from Fernandez, Siddiqui and Ila, this writer?s favourite was the aunty (who we never get to see, and enacted by Bharti Achrekar) with that unmistakable, mischievous chuckle.

Fernandez is the office?s desi ?Despicable Me?, but has a wry sense of humour that most miss. The few that understand his goodness and humour cherish him greatly.

Nawazuddin?s Siddiqui's is another beautifully written character. Cutting vegetables on the way back home, with an outsider?s fire to make it in Mumbai, Siddiqui is at once an arresting character.

And we haven?t even come to the performances! Irrfan Khan?s heartfelt, deeply nuanced act is a delight! Nimrat Kaur (you?ve seen her in the Cadbury Silk ad) folds in several shades to Ila?s persona?from desperation to humour and longing. Nawazuddin Siddiqui gives a crackerjack rendering of Sheikh.

The film explores several uncomfortable themes under its innocuous facade. The pains of growing old alone (In one of the film?s most poignant dialogues, Fernandez confesses, ?I don?t even know when I became old?), the loneliness of a crumbling marriage, the issue of age-disparity between lovers, and of love itself.

Writer-director Ritesh Batra folds in a fairytale element with the film?s stark realism. The story is as probable as it is impossible.

And the finale is the perfect, darkly delicious dessert to this lunchbox. How you perceive it, depends on your lookout. I left the movie with a smile, so I perceived it a certain way, while my frowning colleague wondered how it was all so unfair. (In a press conference after the film, Batra received the maximum number of questions about the film?s end).

The ride is as much fun as the destination. The film has splashes of humour throughout. Like the dabba-wala refusing to acknowledge a mistake because even the ?England ka raja? has praised their efficiency.

Go for the film and enjoy its quaint romance. A word of warning though ? the film?s luscious food will get you seriously hungry. Ah well, carry your lunchbox along!

Rating: Four stars

 

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