The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach….
this is seriously taken very literally in this film haha.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching a brilliant film called The Lunchbox.
I grew up watching Bollywood films with my parents, so I’ve always been drawn to the big bold sets and the thousand cast films, with beautiful production, songs and often sickeningly sweet plots. I still occasionally find the perfect escape and de-stress from a long day at work or a busy week through a 3 hour Indian film. Every year, there will be releases of the big films that are heavily backed by the industry and enjoy a luxurious few months of pr and create quite the storm, and then there a handful of films that you can’t really compartmentalise into bollywood or any sort of community or structure in particular, but come out quietly and simply blow us away.
The Lunchbox, like Amir Khan’s Dhobi Ghaat, is one of those films. It’s a big-set less, bold costume less, big song less, and massive cast less sort of film. One that harks back to what the joy of film making can be for many who enter the industry or refuse to be shackled to its ‘formula’ for success and simply want to deliver stories that touch our hearts in the most frill free manner.
Directed and Written by the very talented Ritesh Batra (he has found in me a new fan), The Lunchbox (also known as ‘Dhabba’ in India) was released in 2013, and stars Irfan Khan (as Saajan), Nimrat Kaur (as Ila), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (as Shaikh).
As a huge bento and tiffin carrier, I’ve always enjoyed the relationship between contained food, culture, consumption habits, health etc. Like the bento culture in Japan, and its kawaii craze and useful monitoring of health through colourful displays which are also nutrionally balanced; the tiffin is a backbone of south Asian working lifestyle. In Mumbai and Delhi, the Tiffin culture is famed for creating a network of delivery staff and jobs and also an efficient system to ensure staff across the cities are eating fresh home cooked healthy food. To see these concepts captured in this film was incredibly delightful and touching.
This film brings together the lives of Saajan who has been grieving since his wife died and Ila, who wants to seek her husband’s attention to rekindle their love and hopes to cook her way through her husband’s heart. But by a rare mistake of the very famous ‘dabbawalas’ of Mumbai city, the dabba (tiffin) with the delicious food she had prepared for her husband instead gets delivered to Saajan. Realizing the mistake of the delivery she writes a note about it to him. This unfolds a beautiful episode in their life in a series of compelling and sincere notes they exchange through the tiffins. The acting was uncannily real, so natural and beautifully executed, I fell deeply in love with the love that was unfolding in front of me in those few hours.
As the story develops, he finds out that her husband is having an affair and writes to Saajan about it, saying that she wants to move to Bhutan since the people there are known to be happy. Saajan contemplates moving with her and writes back asking if she’ll be ready to move to Bhutan with him. Ila writes back saying she’d like to meet him first. They arrange to meet at a popular food joint. And I will stop here otherwise I may just ruin it for you.
The ending is as quiet as it begins; an unspoken beauty leaves you wanting more. I can fully understand why this film was listed on the International Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d’Or.
Forget the gourmet dishes, a home-made tiffin never tasted this good.
© 2014 Shroomantics ~ Rahima Begum
Love in a Tiffin