While writing an article on genres in Bollywood recently, I realised that the only genres that work consistently are rom-coms and action.
The biggest hits have both, with only the concentration of the two making a difference.
The last two years have been promising, with smaller, smarter films being able to hold their own against big-budget brain rapists.
But while the new wave has mostly been moving, quirky, edgy films, there haven’t been many that have actually made an attack on the romantic genre itself.
The Lunchbox, by writer director Ritesh Batra is a romance that spins the genre on its head.
Thanks to all the awesome critics in the country, you probably already know the story of the film, so I won’t delve into the plot. It’s annoying to read all about the film before watching it, because you know what is going to be good about it, and what would disappoint.
However, allow me to rave about the performances, while trying to reveal as little as possible of the story.
What The Lunchbox does absolutely right is the casting. With Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Irrfan Khan in a frame, you have to be a Rahul Gandhi to mess up a film.
What Ritesh Batra does, however, is to extract much more from them than previously thought possible. And what a delight it is to see the two men together!
It was heartening to hear whispers, and see people pointing at the screen when Nawazuddin’s name appeared in the credits. There is a certain arresting presence he has on screen, bringing in dignity to his role, in spite of playing any character that he does. It is the subtle things he does with his face, that elevate his performance to a sublime level.
In spite of all our stars gloating about Hollywood roles where elephants and cars have larger roles than them, it has been Irrfan Khan who has built any semblance of a body of work outside India.
His films in India however, haven’t been totally fulfilling since in spite of his role, there is the usual Bollywood crap that goes with every film. Dramatic sequences, loud backgrounds scores, emotions that seem as real as Rakhi Sawant’s boobs.
In The Lunchbox, he is batting on home pitch. Through grins, glances, and grimaces, he expresses more than all our superstars, in an entire calendar year.
But the real star of the film (yes, in spite of the two men) is Nimrat Kaur.
The first time I had seen her was in the Dairy Milk commercial, as she licks chocolate off her lips.
Here, it is sensuality of the kitchen sink variety. The sweat on her forehead, the way her honeymoon dress fits her around the edges, the manner in which she plans and cooks her food – with the teasing touch of an undressing scene. It is a smoldering performance!
Without putting a foot wrong, Nimrat stands up to the men in the film with a riveting performance, thanks to the other fringe characters who make up her everyday life – an aunty living upstairs we never see, the dabbawalah who is proud of Harvard’s accreditation of his organisation, or a smoking cup of tea.
The Lunchbox is a beautiful film. Without the loud overarching techniques our filmmakers use. It does not rain when there is a touching scene. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan doesn’t belt out an Urdu number when the director wants us to empathise.
It is more Lost in Translation than DDLJ, if you know what I mean.
So while Bollywood is trying to tickle your funny boner with Grand Masti, or trying too hard to entertain you with Chennai Shitfest, please go watch The Lunchbox.
And then treat yourself to a second helping.