Ritesh Batra's feature debut, the unprepossessing indie "The Lunchbox," has heart. The film follows up his award-winning short "Cafe Regular Cairo" (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. India unaccountably overlooked the indie word-of-mouth hit of Telluride and Toronto--as its Oscar submission. (Trailer is below.)
The story hooks on the idea that while Mumbai is justly proud of the precision of the city's grand-scale lunchbox delivery system to and from homes and offices, what happens when something goes awry? 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?
We will be hearing more from this exciting young filmmaker.
Review roundup below.
...a small story about the fragile connection between an aging widower smelling his own mortality and a despairing young housewife that offers American audiences an unusually accessible portrait of the sometimes desperate lives of urban middle-class Indians.
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.