OzAsia On Screen Film Review: The Lunchbox

the-lunchbox-900x600Ritesh Batra’s beautiful, quiet 2013 feature, The Lunch-box is one of this year’s OzAsia Festival film offerings. Winner of two prizes, including the Jury Grand Prize, at the Asia-Pacific screen awards, I am surprised that it has take so long to find its way to Australia.

Irrfan Khan, best known outside of India for “Life of Pi”, stars as a widower on the verge of retirement from the office job he has held for 35 years. Khan is also executive producer. Alongside him is the beautiful Nimrat Kaur, playing a young wife and mother who senses the dying of her marriage.

The story is set amongst the dabba-wallahs of Mumbai, who have become known around the world from documentaries. Every day, they deliver cooked lunches to workers around the city, and with seemingly no paperwork or spreadsheets, deliver them to the correct address, every day. Due to a rare mistake by her dabba-wallah, Kaur’s character, Ila, has the lunch she has lovingly prepared for her husband, delivered to Khan’s character instead. He, of course, eats every last bit of her delicious cooking. A correspondence ensues, with hand-written notes hidden under the naan. This is an interesting film, in that it is not quite a love story. It is really more the story of two people, who both feel trapped, teaching each other, through food and notes, that they have a choice, and they can escape their misery. I’m glad it didn’t go the obvious way, as this would have made it just another, totally unrealistic, boy-meets-girl.

One of the things I loved about this film was its portrayal of a strata of Indian society not often seen on the screen (certainly not outside of India), and that is the lower middle-class: people who have jobs in offices; who live in quite decent apartments, in dowdy, but not slum, areas; who can afford nice clothes but not a car. It was refreshing to not see either the destitute underbelly, nor the upper-middle-class, Bollywood, sub-continent.

This is a simple tale, well told, with a beautiful script, peppered with humour. Filming is suitably direct and devoid of gimmicks, with excellent use of close-ups. It is almost worth seeing just for the scenes where Ila talks to her Auntie upstairs, shouting at each other through the window. We never see Auntie, but she is played wonderfully through voice by veteran Indian actor Bharati Achrekar.

The Lunchbox will make you laugh, make you think, and, as I discovered, make you quite peckish!!

I wish I could find a hand-written note under my naan.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten

Rating out of 10:  8

OzAsia on Screen –The Lunch-box
 Sunday, 21st September, 3pm
Where: Mercury Cinema, Lion Arts Centre, 13 Morphett Street, Adelaide

OzAsia on Screen runs exclusively at the Mercury Cinema from 3-20 September 2014 as part of the broader OzAsia Festival.



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