Once every few years, there comes along a film that hits home with simplicity and elegance, and more importantly, makes you feel like a talentless chump. I’m talking, of course, about Phata Poster Nikla Hero and its sublime Dhating Dhating Dhating Naach, the current anthem for Linking Road Dudes In Net Baniyans.
There’s also Ritesh Batra’s Lunchbox, which I’m sure you know about, seeing as how it has received smashing reviews across the board, despite its appalling lack of item numbers. Critics have described the film as “Soul-stirring”, “A new hope” and “I’ve regained the brain function I lost after Zanjeer”.
Even if you haven’t read the reviews, you can tell that the film is important, because the trailer shows all the festival accolades placed within olive branches, which is usually code for ‘This will be watched by a total of six people, mostly Bengali’. Also, no matter what the text is, it looks impressive as long as it’s placed within those olive branches. Those branches are the visual equivalent of Morgan Freeman’s voice. For example, you’re probably aware that I wrote this column after eight beers, but it’s so much better if I put it like this:
I’m always wary of the hype storm that follows such films, because it leads to unreal expectations, followed by disappointment in what is an otherwise good film. It reminds me of the hype around a certain Prime Ministerial candidate, who is seen as some sort of magician, mostly because his opponents exhibit the work ethic of locusts. (Hint: His name begins with ‘M’ and ends with ‘Look, I built roads, which is amazing because it’s not like I’m supposed to or anything’.)
But thankfully, Lunchbox lives up to the hype, and beautifully so. I caught a screening last week, which was followed by a Q & A session with Irrfan, Nimrat Kaur and Ritesh Batra. These sessions are always interesting because they’re full of film geeks, i.e. people who spend their free time watching world cinema that is not Borat, and regular people, who suddenly feel the need to sound smart.
So it’s no longer okay to just say, “I really liked the film.” A baboon could do that. No, you’re supposed to say something like, “I was mesmerised by the pathos that the maker had infused into the protagonist and the way he brought it out in a heart-wrenching move so typical of the auteur’s oeuvre.” To which others will say, “Calm down. That’s just the fefda video.”
When clueless people want to sound smart about film, they’ll always talk about its cinematography, only because it’s a nice, heavy word and sounds way better than saying, “Scenery mast thha.” (I kept my mouth shut during the Q & A session, because I had nothing of import to say to the cast, and also because it would’ve been un-gentlemanly to yell out, “NIMRAT KAUR WILL YOU MARRY ME?”)
Lunchbox lost out on a shot at the Oscars this week, but then again, I haven’t cared about the Oscars ever since they ignored Jeans. Another Oscar contender was Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, although I’m not sure Americans would have reacted positively to a film about an Arab dude training in the mountains. There was also a film from Karnataka called Lucia, which I haven’t watched because I don’t speak Telugu.
Whenever a good film comes our way, we end up wondering why our regular Bollywood directors don’t make something like it. Honestly, I’m glad they don’t, because do you really want to see Indra Kumar direct Lunchbox? I can already see it unfold:
Indra Kumar presents… LUNCHMASTI
Vivek plays Irrfan’s character, Aftab steps in for Nawaz and Ila is played by Ritesh in drag. Now I haven’t seen Grand Masti, but I remember reading dirty SMS jokes as a kid, so I have all the expertise I need to write the following Lunchmasti scenes:
INT. OFFICE CANTEEN
Aftab: Sir, aaj khaane mein kya hai?
Vivek: Kela. Khaayega?
<INDIAN AUDIENCES ROAR WITH LAUGHTER>
Vivek: (finishes meal) Wah. Aaj maine kya daba ke khaaya.
Aftab: Kiska daba ke?
<INSERT TOING SOUND, SO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME TO WEEP FOR HUMANITY>
At this point, I’ll wait for you to go wash your brain with soap. When you’re done, do yourself a favour and watch Lunchbox. I really liked it. Scenery mast thha.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 22nd Sep 2013.)