qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Carry On Up Mumbai Business District

I went to Reading Film Theatre last night to see The Lunchbox. Once I'd got over the inflation (now £7.50, up from £5.50 the last time I went) I enjoyed the film. From the opening credits it's not entirely clear to what extent it's an Indian film; the funding seemed to come mostly from France and Germany. It was bizarre, but seemed quite plausible, that the dialog would randomly switch between Hindi and English. Some of the characters were quite stereotypical - such as the old woman known only as "Auntie" who lives in the flat above Ila. Like Mrs Mainwaring, she is never seen, although she certainly has plenty of "wisdom" (and chillies) to impart. The plot centres around Saajan Fernandes, a widower nearing retirement working in a large Mumbai insurance office, and Ila, a housewife in a stale marriage. Somehow (there is no unambiguous explanation, although the opening scenes with the dabbawalas make it all too clear the number of opportunities for error), Ila's lunch box is exchanged with one from the shop with which Fernandes has a regular order. He notices the difference in the food quality (and Ila notices on the boxes' return that the meal has been polished off and the boxes "look as though they have been licked clean"); conversely, the event passes Ila's husband by without observation. Ila places a note in the box the following day, and as the error is repeated a correspondence begins. Meanwhile Fernandes is disinterested in his replacement who has started in the office and appears enthusiastic though neither entirely competent nor entirely honest. Really this is quite a sad tale on many counts, but it's portrayed with a lightness of touch and nostalgia that means a smile is never too far away, and there is also some quite dry humour (one particular example would be the dialogue in the scene late in the film where Ila challenges the dabbawala about the error). The story doesn't really resolve itself - though any "resolution" would inevitably be contrived so perhaps it is best up to the viewer to imagine.
Tags: film
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