The Lunchbox, the first feature film by documentary & short film maker Ritesh Batra, is definitely one to sit up and look at the kind of movies about our mundane urban landscape. It does come as a breath of fresh air and portrays the relationship between two strangers of the opposite sex with grace and respect.
There are so many thoughts and opinions that come to mind while analyzing it. A couple years of sociology some of which were spent watching socialists and rightists fight it out in campus along with a few feminists were enough to stimulate my sensitive and interrogative side. Working in the corporate exposed me to yet another set of views. But there are certain things which cannot be ignored just because they are not over the top.
Let me begin by recounting my conversation with one of my male colleagues about the recent off beat movie –The lunch box. There was no comment from him let alone an appreciable one. Whereas I was telling all my friends and acquaintances about the need to watch such a simple and intelligent movie. It had a dream like quality about it and its most appealing quality was the pure and simple romance between the two protagonists. Nothing over the top or vulgar or unrealistic. Pure friendship which started with sharing daily updates and then graduated to the anxiousness of meeting the other person.
Well, what was it that my dear male friend missed to see? Was is the fact that the married housewife took a daring step of walking out on an unfaithful husband or was it that men generally prefer simple fun structured around fast paced romance or cars? It was unfathomable to me.
This simple romantic friendship is peppered with the hero ‘s (Irrfan Khan’s character) doubt about his apparent old age and his friend’s youth which has a lot of life and dreams yet to achieve and experience. He had begun to feel the forces of old age and the travails of city life which were too much sometimes. So the question was would our strange hero be able to survive the doubts about himself and the entire situation? This is where the character of Nawazuddin Siddiqqui comes into the picture. As Irrfan’s new replacement who is intense and irritating at the same time. His bouts of maturity are visible in quite a few places and finally equip our hero to take up the reins of his life and relationship and not run away from them.
The movie ends leaving the viewer to imagine the end as he/she prefers- the wife walking out with her child and moving on to a more happier place possibly with her new lover and feeling liberated.
The simplicity and purity with which the characters have been explored belie the seriousness of the issue being discussed. The conversation shared through lunchbox chits between two complete strangers explores a whole range of marital issues and changing social conditions which make one stop and think about all the mundane issues that we all face in an urban setting and tend to ignore.
This bracing new movie is an eye opener of sorts. We don’t need songs and dances in a movie and nor do we need over the top dialogues to make a successful movie. Ritesh Batra as director of this film can be compared with the likes of Basu Chatterjee’s Shaukeen & Rajnigandha of the 70S & 80s, where a similar simple narrative is accompanied with depiction of an interesting and intelligent story.
Well, coming back to my male counterpart, my overenthusiasm rubbed off on him finally. Men do have appreciation for simple movies with a strong message in it. Its just that they see less of such movies than women and it takes a while before they accept the fact that slow paced movies are also watchable and likeable :).