Film: The Lunchbox (Dabba)
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Director: Ritesh Batra
Indian cinema ought to be proud of moments like these. The Lunchbox has been screened at various international festivals even before it's release in India.
But beyond the adulation of the world press, the best thing about this bittersweet movie is its desi flavour that gives it a universal appeal.
Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a housewife whose husband doesn't give her any attention, does her best to please him with her culinary skills. An 'aunty' (whose presence is only through a brilliant voice-over by Bharti Achrekar) helps her cook a delightful meal everyday.
The Lunchbox, however, finds its way to Saajan Fernandes' (Irrfan Khan) office due to a mistake by Mumbai's famous dabbawallahs.
Saajan, who is a widowed employee about to retire, is trying to deal with a new, smooth-talking assistant Aslam Sheikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who is hired to take his place after his retirement.
When Ila realises that the dabba isn't reaching her husband, she sends a letter in the lunch box. And thus begins a love story between the two. Saajan while trying to come to terms with this new development also forms a father-son kind of bond with Aslam over cigarette puffs and train rides.
If the delicious combination of Irrfan and Nawaz isn't enough, there's Nimrat, who's a brilliant find.
Not only is the movie about the characters, but it's also an excellent ode to Mumbai — the city of dreams. The fragile yet beautiful bonds that people create while battling their daily chores are known to most of us.
Irrfan is in top form here. Don't miss the scene right at the beginning where he is bent over his desk. He gets the body language bang on. The sadness in his eyes as he watches another family have dinner is haunting.
Nawaz matches the tempo Irrfan sets, especially with his comic timing. Bollywood sure owes him some interesting characters. Nimrat, as the housewife who is also trying to be a dutiful mother and daughter, lends spunk to a character that has difficult decisions to make.
Debutant director Ritesh Batra has a firm grip over the narrative. The director brings alive an era when love letters played a crucial role... probably something that people who are busy romancing over SMSes won't know about.
Ritesh, who is also the writer of the movie that has got thumbs-up from many filmmakers as the frontrunner as India's Oscar nominee, keeps the story simple without adding any melodrama to it.
At times, however, the scenes seem a little too long, but be patient and you won't have any complaints. The fact that it has garnered so much acclaim even before its release in India is something no one can ignore. This one may not please those looking for a masala flick, but is more than your money's worth.
But ensure that you eat well before you head for the movie, or else be prepared to deal with the hunger pangs everytime Irrfan opens The Lunchbox.