The Common Man Speaks


Review: The Lunchbox

Director: Ritesh Batra

Producers: UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Dar Motion Pictures, Sikhya Entertainment and Roh Films – Germany

Writer: Ritesh Batra

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Genre: Drama

Rating: * * * ½

By: Keyur Seta

Story Outline: Leading a lonely life, middle-aged widower Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan) works in the claims department of a government office in Mumbai. He has just a month to go before he retires from his services. Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a housewife, is also battling loneliness due to her husband’s avoidance.

Once Ila prepares tiffin for her husband like every other day. However, due to dabba wala’s mistake, the tiffin lands on Saajan’s table. This ensures a series of conversations between the two through letters. Slowly, their strange relationship blossoms into love. But how far can such a love story go?

Review: It is a norm in Indian movies to include dramatic, powerful dialogues or blaring background music to generate emotions. But debutant Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox breaks all these norms and how! By using just a subtle, simple narration, he narrates a difficult love story that is sure to move you.

The-Lunchbox-movieSuch a romantic tale is very difficult and tricky to narrate on celluloid. Batra not only conceives the romance intelligently but also maintains it. The latter part can be too tough as the letter reading scenes can become repetitive. But that is nicely taken care with some real yet witty conversations, mostly between Irrfan and Nawazuddin, and various rib-tickling moments from the simplest of everyday scenes. The success of this part alone is the backbone of the film.

The Lunchbox is also one of the rare films where the city of Mumbai can be called as a different character altogether. This doesn’t mean merely showing the city few times or placing your story in it. It is about various aspects of the city visible throughout the film. Examples – bus and train journeys, dabba walas, loneliness despite over population, Ila’s neighborhood aunty, group of people playing abhangas in train, inflation issues faced by the common man, especially when it comes to medical bills, painters outside Azad Maidan, kids playing cricket on streets, etc.

After such impressive plus points, you personally feel bad for the film towards the last 15 minutes or so. The events in the pre-climax and climax act as a dampener. If this hadn’t been the case, the movie could have been hailed as a classic.

The technical department (camerawork, background score and editing) goes with the simple nature of the film.

Performances play a large role in creating the desired effect. Irrfan Khan has proved time and again that he is one of the finest actors to emerge from India. He proves that again by generating a lot of appeal from his character despite underplaying himself. But despite Irrfan’s presence, Nimrat Kaur shines with a real and mature portrayal of a lonely housewife. She surely deserves more films!

In the midst of the two performances, Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers a lovable act! He too is no doubt one of the most talented actors around currently. Although Bharti Acharekar doesn’t appear, her delightful way of speaking makes her presence felt.

Overall: Although The Lunchbox isn’t a classic, it’s still a must watch. It should slowly climb the box office ladder.


Review: Satyagraha

Director: Prakash Jha

Producers: Prakash Jha Productions and UTV Motion Pictures

Writers: Prakash Jha and Anjum Rajabali

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Rampal, Amrita Rao

Music: Salim-Sulaiman, Aadesh Shrivastav, Meet Bros and Indian Ocean

Genre: Drama

By: Keyur Seta

Rating: * *

Story Outline: Retired school principal Daduji (Amitabh Bachchan) is a man of Gandhian principles, who believes in fighting injustice. His son Akhilesh (Indraneil Sengupta), an engineer, follows his father’s footsteps in being an idealist. One day, Akhilesh’s businessman friend Manav (Ajay Devgn) comes to stay with them. Daduji has a clash of words with Manav due to the differences in ideologies. Soon, a part of a flyover, created by Akhilesh, is destroyed, which leads to his accidental death. This starts Daduji’s struggle against the system on various issues.

Review: Over the years Prakash Jha has acquired an identity of a filmmaker specializing in the hard hitting socio political genre. But since Raajneeti (2010) onwards, he has been showing an inclination towards commercialism while presenting social issues. Although he has succeeded in producing engaging films while doing this, the content hasn't been up to the mark. He does it again with Satyagraha. This time, however, his effort stoops lower than ‘not up to the mark’ for he makes a mockery of a social movement by making it unconvincingly filmi.

Despite Jha’s stern denial, even a primary school kid would understand that the film and its characters are fully based on the Anna Hazare movement (Bachchan: Anna Hazare, Devgn: Arvind Kejriwal and Kapoor: Shazia Ilmi).

Satyagraha-movieBut his celluloid version of the movement just fails to create any impact whatsoever due to high degrees of Bollywood-isms thrown in which just makes it look fake! From these points, the romantic angle between Devgn and Kapoor deserves special mention for being the most forced and unconvincing love story in a long, long time. Although there are inspiring moments but they appear tiny in front of the fallacies.

What also kills the interest is the fact that the writers try to bring in too many issues which ensures a faulty narration. For example, at one point we see these characters trying to uncover the mystery of Akhilesh’s death but in the very next scene, they attack the collector’s office and start preaching anti-corruption. Likewise, the film keeps changing issues and leads up to a climax that can be best described as unintentionally hilarious.

From the various flaws, Kapoor’s character sketch takes the cake. In fact, it won’t be an overstatement to describe this as one of the stupidest portrayals of a journalist ever in Bollywood. So we have this ever-glamorous reporter who joins Daduji’s movement while on duty and even starts residing in his bungalow. Later on, her image is also included in the posters of the Jan Satyagrahi’s team! This is more than idiotic as no reporter would dare take a side in such a manner and if he or she ever does it, the person is fired the very moment. Well, did I see Anjum Rajabali’s name in the writers’ credits or did I misread it?

Perhaps the song ‘Raghupati Raghav’ is the best moment of the film. The rest of the songs weren’t required at all. The camerawork and background score are decent while the editing is passable.

Talking about the performances, Amitabh Bachchan does succeed in being an aged social activist who is never short of inner strength. But it hurts to see his super acting talent being wasted in such a film. It hurts even more when he is forced to ham in the climax. His character is also the same as in Aarakshan. Ajay Devgn is just average this time, which is a surprise. Most of the times, it looked as if he is trying too hard. Kareena Kapoor doesn’t impress due to the characterization as mentioned above.

Manoj Bajpayee turns out the best of all, although even his character is carried forward his character from Aarakshan. From the rating, there is half a star extra for Big B and Bajpayee’s performances. Arjun Rampal is likable as an aggressive political leader. He should have been given more screen space. Amrita Rao has hardly anything to do. She is strictly okay. The rest of the supporting actors just fit the bill.

Overall, Satyagraha suffers due to various flaws. The film will struggle at the box office after the first weekend.