Ritesh Batra's feature debut "The Lunchbox" follows up his award-winning short (see below). The warm, well-observed romantic drama was snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics out of Cannes, where it won the viewer's choice (The Rail d'Or) award at Critics' Week. And it was the word-of-mouth hit of Telluride; I caught up with it in Toronto Friday morning. (Trailer is below.)
Set in Mumbai, the story hooks on the idea that while Harvard has celebrated the precision of the city's grand-scale lunchbox delivery system to and from homes and offices, when one lunch pail gets mixed up, a lonely young wife (Nimrat Kaur) starts exchanging notes with a lonely older widower accountant (the exquisite Irrfan Khan). He not only looks forward every day to her flavorful cooking (which her workaholic husband does not appreciate), but comes to care for her as well. As they share their lives, and their intimacy escalates, we wonder: will they meet? can these two kindrid spirits get together?
Judging from the length of Batra's meeting at Starbucks in Toronto with indie producer and San Francisco Film Society executive director Ted Hope, we will be hearing more from this exciting young filmmaker. In all likelihood, India will submit yet another big-budget Bollywood film for the Oscar, but they would do well to consider this unprepossessing indie: it has heart.
Review roundup below.
A feel-good movie that touches the heart while steering clear of expectation, “The Lunchbox” signals a notable debut from tyro helmer-scripter Ritesh Batra. The ingredients on their own are nearly fail-proof, yet it’s the way Batra combines food with an epistolary romance between a nearly retired number cruncher and a neglected wife that hits all the right tastebuds. An indie Indian pic with the crossover appeal of “Monsoon Wedding,” it’s sure to be gobbled up by audience-friendly fests before heading into niche cinemas.