Imagine those outstandingly promising mornings when you woke up for school to delicious aromas wafting out of the kitchen? While pooping-showering-polishing-shoes all you could think about was what an amazing lunch Mommy was packing for you. During the second period itself, you start feeling hungry, begging recess to swoop in faster. And then it does. With drum roll inside your head, you frantically open the lunchbox and –
Egg and cheese sandwiches. Or oatmeal porridge. Or chapattis and brinjal gravy.
Dreams comes crashing down. You feel cheated, deceived, and a ball of anger rises from your hungry galls. What the fuck?!
My reaction exactly after watching The Lunchbox. I was cursing myself and my very lazy partner in crime for not watching The Lunchbox earlier. We missed the film on the opening week, choosing to watch Phata Poster Nikla Hero (we all know how that went. You don’t? Read here) and found ourselves too busy after that. Finally, Saturday night we settled down for one of the best Indian films of this year.
Widower Fernandes suddenly finds tasty food in his lunchbox. Ila, a mid-aged housewife is confused at her husband’s sudden love for her lunch spread. After dressing up for him (because that is what an Indian housewife always does after seeing an empty lunch box. Sajna hai mujhe sajnaa ke liye instantly plays in the background because the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach, she still believes) but before the sex of her dreams can even begin, she realizes that the lunchbox had been delivered to a different man. The next day she sends a note for him in the box, peppering her Hindi with humour and a bored housewife’s evident longing. She also cooks her husband’s favourite paneer preparation with as much love as she can muster. She hopes that the lunchbox reaches her husband this time. She also hopes against it.
Fernandes replies – Dear Ila, the food was salty today.
An excellent start. You would expect a wonderful relationship to be woven with letters between two people who never meet. You would expect them to share their lives, opening up to each other, sharing the trials and tribulations of life, finding some excitement in their empty lives. You would expect them to want to finally meet each other, their hesitation and fear. You would expect something outstanding to happen in the climax, a fantastic twist that will leave you gaping, feeling that this was definitely one of the best films you have seen in your life. You would expect Irrfan to wow you with his performance as usual. You would expect Nawaz to act his arse off and be an absolute delight to watch. You would expect the Irrfan-Nawaz combination to be like the Aamir-Salman coming together of intelligent-meaningful-parallel cinema.
Or so you would expect. And so was I expecting too.
Not ONE of those things happened. The letters were meaningless, without heightening the story’s emotional curve at all. Bits and pieces of information were shared (My wife died, my husband is fucking around, a woman committed suicide with her daughter, oh-my-god-what-was-she-thinking) and no heat or passion was exchanged. The fact that they decided to finally meet (or did they? I am being kind to those fools who are still afraid of spoilers) comes with no trepidation at all. You don’t feel anything. And then the resolution arrives, completely void of any heart or head. As the credits roll, you are left with just one expression – what the fuck?!
The film has too many ‘the fuck’ moments.
What the fuck was the director trying to achieve with this film?
What the fuck is the story about? Love? Hope? Release? Second Chance? Why the fuck do I have no clue about the motive of the film AFTER having watched it?
What the fuck was the director’s point of view about the absolute lack of emotion? Case in point: Ila finds her husband is having an affair (from sniffing his week’s dump of shirts). She writes about it to a stranger who is not providing her ANY solace whatsoever. If the director wants us to believe that those few insipid lines in English are ENOUGH for her to find a place for him in her heart, he does not know the womankind.
Why the fuck does Ila not move in with her recently-widowed mother and scamper off to Bhutan of all places? She wanted to escape her marriage. Her mother needs her. So, rather than doing a typical (and, in this case, logical) main meri maike chali jaungi, she takes off for Bhutan with her daughter? And the reason she gives for moving to Bhutan – don’t even get me started.
How the fuck did the director achieve the Herculean feat of making Irrfan Khan do a bad job?! Irrfan does nothing in the film. Zilch. His expression remains the same from frame one. He adds zero energy or magnetism or charisma to the performance.
And most importantly, what the fuck was Nawaz doing in the film? This was nothing more than a casting coup, as the film DID NOT EVEN NEED THAT CHARACTER. His character does nothing for the narrative (except that scooter ride) and Nawaz is as bland and unexciting as Irrfan.
No background score. Absolutely boring cinematography. Lightweight writing. Forgettable (I will force myself to forget) performances. Downright shitty direction.
I have a feeling that a brilliant marketing strategy was at play. It is a growing fad in the industry to be intelligent. Being ‘intellectual’ is suddenly very cool. And knowing how herd mentality-ed human beings are, if a couple of people start appreciating something, many will follow – for fear of being called stupid or being left out. Just like the Ship of Theseus which tried way too hard, The Lunchbox is nothing but an empty mainstream attempt to be different.
Remember me telling you guys that I was scared of watching The Lunchbox? Now, you realize why. I am not watching The Good Road. Period. My time is too precious.