Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Lunchbox

There’s an expression “make the first bite the feast” which could easily be applied to Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox. The consummation of passion may be far from the director’s game plan. However, The Lunchbox is a movie in which every little bit of experience matters. Though there's something contrived about in the story of Saajen Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), the dour civil servant and widower who mistakenly receives the lovingly prepared dishes of Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a housewife who is trying to win the heart of her indifferent husband Rajeev (Nakul Vaid), the canvas is large. The appeal to the senses becomes the conduit of love and it’s through the olfactory sense that Ila, in a wonderfully crafted moment, discovers her husband’s infidelity--in the course of smelling a shirt. The Lunchbox is truly an Epicurean movie, if we understand that pleasure for Epicurus was predicated, not on gluttony, but a modulated gratification ultimately aimed at alleviating pain. If there are epistolary novels, Batra has created an epistolary movie, as his two love interests only meet each other through letters. The off-camera theme also takes an auditory form in the relationship between Ila and her Aunt (Bharati Achrekar), a Mumbai Molly Picon, who screams advice and recipes out of an upstairs window. These absented characters might be looked at as a cat and mouse game, but the missed connections are precisely what infuses the movie’s sights, sounds and smells with so much significance. “The wrong train will sometimes get you to the right station,” is one of the movie's mantras and it’s a perfect antidote to the bustling version of modern Indian life that threatens to engulf the humanity of Batra’s characters. “There are many people and everyone wants what the other has,” Saajen writes at one point. The Lunchbox is almost anachronistic in its slow moving cultivation of sensibility, but it lets you smell the roses.

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