The Lunchbox

Posted by Anantha | Posted in | Posted on Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dir: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Irfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Sajan Fernandes (Irfan) is a loner working in claims dept of a government office which is decades behind the age of computers, the employees work on big fat hardbound files there (in two of the scenes you see Sajan diligently marking lines with a ruler and a marker). Sajan is about to retire in few days. Even after working for 30+ yrs in the same office, he does not seem to have any friends in the office, he sits alone for lunch, he doesn't say 'hi-bye' to anyone in the office. What made him so or has he been like that all his life, we don’t really bother to ponder over that when Irfan Khan plays Sajan! His long pauses before he answers, his empty gaze out of the window of a bus etc convinces us pretty much that Sajan Fernandes must have been like this since ages. Lovvvved the way Irfan pauses and says nothing when Nawazuddin Siddiqui asks him, 'kaise lag raha hai sir... Itne saal ek hi dept mein the aap.. Abhi retire ho rahe hai'.

Ela (Nimrat) is a housewife, another lonely soul in one of the stacked up flats of an apartment in Mumbai. Her husband seems severely disinterested in her. After sending her daughter off to school, she often tries new recipes with the help of an aunty upstairs. That's her only break in the monotony.

On one of those rarest of the rarest days, instead of Ela's husband, Sajan gets the dubba sent by Ela. That leads to a chain of conversations between the two through the written letters exchanged in lunchbox. I loved the way their conversation builds and a very beautiful camaraderie blooms between the two. Though their conversations start with the taste of food, it meanders through quite esoteric plateaus ranging from Bhutan's gross happiness index to Sajan seeing his dead grandfather in the bathroom. There are more esoteric things in the movie like the aunty upstairs saying she cleaned a running fan and Ela's mother saying she is feeling hungry sitting in front of her husband's dead body. I personally did not like Sajan naming Ela and projecting her as his girl friend when he goes to Nawazuddin's house for dinner. I wish he had stopped at the long pause there. Well, that could be my way of perceiving Sajan.

What made them not exchange their mobile numbers? I think the telephonic conversation could have never been a match for the fun of writing those handwritten letters and exchanging them hidden inside the lunchbox. I think Sajan and Ela knew that well! The movie has moments which tugs at one's heartstrings. For example, when Sajan suspects the lady who committed suicide with her daughter could be Ela or when Nawazuddin almost tears Ela's letter with the roti in his hand.

Loved Irfan, Nimrat and Nawazuddin. Kudos to Ritesh for giving us such a beautiful film.

PS: Not an ounce of doubt on the caliber of Irfan but on a whimsical note, just had this discussion with a friend of mine about whom would we want to see as Sajan if not Irfan. Hmm.. Anupam Kher - might have suited well too. Paresh Rawal - Hmmm.. I dont think his expressive eyes go well with Sajan's persona. Naseeruddin Shah - Bingo... Would have nailed it!, Boman Irani - That could be interesting. He would overdo certain mannerisms of  Sajan, but would have given his own interpretation to the character of Sajan (could have drifted away from the Sajan, Ritesh conceived!). However, I want to see Boman in such roles. Who else... Anant Nag from Kannada! Well, that's an interesting choice too!!  Let me know your choices :)

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