packing a sumptuous lunchbox ...

... without masala is possible and Ritesh Batra exhibits this with aplomb.

[image credit: http://rahulda10.wordpress.com]
Before I write about the movie, some background into why the delay in getting around to watching it. I was very excited after seeing the trailer. I would be honest, back then I was more excited because of Irrfan Khan (IK), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (NS) - two actors for whom I hold the most respect - and for the story that I could tease out of the trailer. I did not know Ritesh Batra as a movie maker then. As customs demanded, I duly shared the trailer on Facebook and "earned some Likes" (the upper case L denotes the Facebook adaptation of this phrase - how smart!)

A bit about the kind of movie goers my wife and I are. Many of us know those happy couples who make sure they watch at least one movie every weekend. Pray, some of you may be those couples. I envy you. My father has a friend like that. I have friends like that. Unfortunately, my wife and I are not one of those happy couples. Before this blows up, let me clarify that we are happy as a couple, just that are not happy watching everything that is served on a friday. And I do understand that this is not necessarily the mark of a true film lover. A true film lover has a much wider range and does not judge a movie without watching it, in fact does not judge a movie at all. Not that we have not had our share of misadventures. We have learnt our lessons the hard way including that time we walked out of Raavan mid-way. That the tickets were free helped us make a quick decision. Or that time when I went to watch Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag along with colleagues. Here is a gem from one of those who accompanied me "I will never order food during a Ram Gopal Verma movie. It is just so dark that you cannot eat your food". Or that time in college, when law of diminishing marginal utilities caught up with us when we tried to wrap up One 2 Ka 4 immediately after watching Russel Crowe's Proof of Life. I know I have digressed.

Coming back to The Lunchbox (TL), wife and I both agreed that this is a movie to watch. Of course, it has been sometime we watched a movie together in the theater. My 3 year old daughter's impatience with movies which are not animated or do not have animals (preferably named as humans) ensures that she stays away from the movies we like. So the plan as it rolls out is, one of us watches the movies first and then the other follows. I always ask Ipshita to go first and this is for a purely selfish reason. I do not want to be in a situation where I have watched it and she has not. Plus with the uncertainties of life with a small baby, it can only get worse if she doesn't get to watch it at all. So Ipshita went with a common friend. Watched it. Loved it. And I was happy - genuinely happy. Of course, Murphy caught up with me and I could not watch it in theater and that, my friends, is how I got to watch it yesterday in one of those moments where you do not want to "achieve" anything but to watch a good movie.

One thing that stood out, ironically, was the subtlety displayed by all the main actors - IK, NS and NK (Nimrat Kaur). Like those who cook food at their own pace to bring out the flavors, Ritesh builds the plots at a very easy pace - be it Ela and Saajan's relationship or that between Sheikh and Saajan.

At its easy pace, the movie is able to latch on to those small things that we encounter in our every day life but fail to appreciate because of its "routine-ness". The relationship between Ela and Aunty is simply beautiful. I especially loved the part where they listen to music together. What a beautiful way to share their space. To an engineer like me it reminds of a Venn Diagram - there are overlaps but their are independent areas too.

In the scene in which Ela  tries to approach her husband for a second baby, I found the emotions very tense. As though the husband was a bomb waiting to explode. Of course, it was handled very delicately and the Ela's emotions diffused with the husband's "Please Aloo Gobhi mat banaya karo" maxim.

The scene in which Saajan receives an empty box is beautiful - without a word, it screamed "I need an answer". And, of course, it is a respite from those memory testing movies where the villain has to clearly spell out the conditions under which he killed the actor's father so that the actor finally knows. I think someone needs to tell certain people in Bollywood - we normally do not speak our heart out in as clear terms as you show and definitely not in the way you depict.

The parting scene between Sheikh and Saajan at the former's marriage is especially touching. There are very few scenes of friendship between men that I have seen that display it without being loud. That in this case it was not even a friendship of peers but more of a guardian-ward relationship makes it even more beautiful. That it was a scene between two of the most amazing actors in Bollywood makes you thank Ritesh again and again for choosing to make a movie like TL.

Nawazuddin's accent is very very affable - something about it made him a person next door and not an actor. I am especially talking about the way he spells his Rs or rather does not spell it. I do not think that is his usual accent. Irrfan Khan's "My wife is dead" in a deadpan voice is reminiscent of Arnold's "Come with me if you want to live". That time when Irrfan asks the auto driver for the name of the lady who commits suicide is tragicomic.

IKs' realization that he is old and then the next realization that he is not that told is beautifully shown. The way IK becomes acceptable to his young cricket playing neighbours displayed so beautifully by the window. Simply amazing.

The first question that I wanted to ask Ritesh was whether he wanted Saajan to meet Ela in the end. Also if he has seen Bridges of Madison County. Rhetorical question maybe, of course he has. And if he saw any resemblance in the situations of the female protagonists.

As is customary after watching a good film, I started scavenging for the film maker on the internet and hit up on this short film by him which was part of the Sundance Festival. Called Masterchef, it's theme too is centered around making of food. Take a look

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