Friday, April 18, 2014

The Lunchbox (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Lunchbox”
Serves Up a Hit

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My friend David’s wife packs his lunch most days. She even includes little love notes. I think it’s sweet.

In India, it’s common for wives to prepare lunches for their husbands. But rather than husbands carrying lunchboxes to work, the pails are delivered to them by a complex courier system.

It’s not surprising that a lunchbox occasionally goes astray.

But what happens when said wife and the not-her-husband recipient start corresponding through little notes?

“The Lunchbox” -- currently playing at the Tropic Cinema -- is what we call an epistolary film. One that’s based on communications through letters. Literally, it means “I sent a message.”

Think: “Letters From Juliet.” Or “Shop Around the Corner.”

In this debut film by Ritesh Batra, we’re introduced the dabbawalas of Mumbai, couriers who pick up lunchboxes of hot food from workers’ homes and deliver them to their workplaces using an intricate network of bicycles and railway trains.

Here, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is determined to rekindle her husband’s affection, following that old adage of the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach. So she prepares him a delicious lunch … but it goes astray.

Saajan (Irrfan Khan) is the unintended recipient, sparking a series of back-and-forth notes as their affection grows.

Ritesh Batra started out to make a documentary about Indian dabbawalas, but after hearing their stories the project morphed into a feature film. Dumping the documentary, Batra began penning a screenplay, working out details in various film festival writing labs.

After Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur signed on, the first-time director was able to raise $1.7 million to make this bittersweet romance.

“The Lunchbox” premiered at Cannes, where it received a standing ovation as well as winning the coveted Viewers Choice Award. Rotten Tomatoes ranks the film at 95%.

It’s enough to make moviegoers croon, Hooray for Bollywood.

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