Archive for September, 2013

The Lunchbox

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The Lunchbox
Release date: September 20, 2013
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Nimrat Kaur, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bharati Achrekar, Denzil Smith, Nakul Vaid, Lillete Dubey, Yashvi Puneet Nagar

Delectably assorted tiers of steel boxes, make their way from the homely kitchens to the hustling offices and other workplaces, with the dabbawalas playing the role of the messenger–a regular urban activity, is picked up by Ritesh Batra and he gives vivid roles to all the three parties involved. Where the dabbawala is the inadvertent cupid (in denial) between an unlikely couple.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a modern housewife, in need of validation from her husband Rajiv (Nakul Vaid) She gets the wanted and unwanted advice from the Deshpande Aunty (Bharati Achrekar’s voice) be it cooking or listening to endless cassettes from the 80s and 90s, they do it all together. In a bid to win Rajiv all over again, Ila cooks the most scrumptious meal she has ever cooked yet.

On the other end of the spectrum, rather the receiving end, is Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) a bank employee working for the claims department for the past 35 years, and is about to retire in a month. He’s a widower, who smokes and watches TV while he’s at home in the evening. He doesn’t dole out free smiles either. Two common emotions between these disconnected characters is the longing for a loved one, in the absence or even the presence of that person.

The tiffin packed with the spices and an effervescent letter becomes the ritual and what they bode on are the general changes in Bombay, their personal habits, their fancies. All of it, without seeing each other through the entire film. The actors deliver perfect emotions that resemble intimate moments, even in isolation. Siddiqui plays the enigmatic yet annoying newbie at the bank, Aslam. He keeps pushing Fernandes to the limit only to catch him off guard enjoying his tiffin.

However, as perfect this film appears, I was baffled at the subsided treatment given to the fringe characters, like the co-employees at the bank, thus adding to inconsistencies with Fernandes’s character (with respect to what Aslam says he’s heard from the other guys at the bank). There’s a certain feeling of holding back, the cards seem just a bit too close to the chest. Perhaps more of these flaws get masked by Khan’s crowning realistic acting, Kaur’s timed insecure expression and the sheer delight of receiving yet another letter. If there’s a film about Bombay’s current face and its constant battle with overcoming nostalgia, it cannot be better than The Lunchbox.

Ritesh Batra’s transitions are simplistically captivating. He takes the usual and turns it into fitting devices for the screenplay to forward. Shot on real locations with camerawork that resembles the same innocuous stolen glances which the characters share with the letters exchanged through the lunchbox, Michael Simmonds is impish as he delves into the character’s camaraderie with the same fringe characters, thus making them inclusive again.

I don’t know about Oscar selections or National Awards, but The Lunchbox is as close as a film can get to your heart, even if no one uses a mobile phone in the entire film. It’s just food, Bombay and the memories here.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Shuddh Desi Romance

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Shuddh Desi Romance
Release date: September 6, 2013
Directed by: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Tarun Vyas

Romantic liaisons are as much a part of the Indian youth’s ordinary lives as much as the internet or mobile phones. Or the lack of public bathrooms all over India. Hey mom & dad, no, I’m not a part of that youth. Also, this same public denial of being in a relationship with someone, is rooted to a conscious mentality which makes us look down upon couples just holding hands or even sitting next to each other.

And there are few, who aren’t shy of the stares and glares, they are just scared of being restricted to just one person for the rest of their lives; or the ones who don’t deem the wedlock to be the be all and end all. You could fit into in any of the above categories, I know I do. To go slightly overboard, the same Indian women who dote on Barney Stinson/Charlie Harper’s flirtatious television persona, have very contradicting double standards in actuality.

Shuddh Desi Romance puts some of the above apprehensions in a tier-2 city (Jaipur) setting with its characters desperately trying to break out of their cultural and traditional limits. Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) is running away from a lot of things: his name, his relationship status, and a fixed job. Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) is independent, speaks out her mind and has trust issues. Tara (Vaani Kapoor) has compromised on her ambitions to get “settled” into a familial discourse.

The three protagonists here depict common dilemmas faced by a major chunk of youngsters all over. It is the same emphasis on the title characters more than the plot that creates interesting dynamics in the otherwise overused love triangle format. Both Raghuram and Gayatri work with Goyal (Rishi Kapoor) and pose as guests at lavish weddings. Thus focusing on the inherent hollowness of grand Indian weddings.

As the emotional conflicts are takeoffs from our ordinary circumstances and so are the lines, Gayatri’s simple “Kya hai?”, Raghuram’s flirtatious “I don’t mind.” and Tara’s relieving “Ek thanda dena” prove to be gems in a situational context. The three have their own defense mechanisms, their own comfort zones and their own vulnerabilities.

SDR doesn’t thrive on being preachy in its conclusion, unlike its promotional posters. Perhaps the film lags in the second half in comparison to the first, but the charm and wit never runs out. Even when an incident of unfaithfulness is encountered, they simply talk it out in a closed room.

There aren’t much stock roles, and that works to the strength of the film. Chopra stands out amongst the lot in her performance, her composure, her grit are both captivating. Rajput is disarming and yet naive at the right moments. The two Kapoors (Not biologically or lawfully related to each other. Yet.) are good foils to the dominating presence of Rajput and Chopra.

More importantly, will Shuddh Desi Romance, with all its favoritism towards live-in relationships, cast a spell on your commitment-obsessed girlfriend or your parents who are insisting you to get married? It may. Or it may not. And that is the whole point here, the makers gradually shift the spotlight from the characters to a basic storyline at the end. It becomes about how two like-minded commitment phobics can mutually coexist.

For me, SDR is an extremely likeable film with a balance of realism and introspection. Extra points for the fresh music score.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Lucia

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Lucia (Kannada)
Release date: September 6, 2013
Directed by: Pawan Kumar
Cast: Sathish, Shruthi Hariharan, Hardhika Shetty, Achyuth Kumar, Sanjay, Aryan, Prashanth

Many Kannada films don’t make their way to Mumbai, Lucia is among the few chosen ones that get to break that barrier. Produced by a crowdfunding initiative, be prepared to thrown off when the names of the producers cloud your screen with a galaxy of names in the starting credits.

Lucia is the story of a theater usher, Nikhil’s insomnia and the effects of the measures he takes to get over the said sickness. The film follows a beauteous non-linear structure, which holds you through the many slow sequences and extensively long song and dance numbers. The dance numbers appear out of place at first, even an attempt to commercialize the whole concept; but as the songs go on, there is a back-and-forth feel to them.

As Nikhil becomes obsessed with his lack of sleep, he’s dragged into a whole another thing. Soon, he’s sleeping with lucid dreams. Dreams that continue to run like a TV programme. He starts living an alter-life in his dreams and his real-life issues juxtapose with his sleeping thoughts. The lines between the two keep blurring and it gets harder to differentiate if the former is a reflection of the latter, or vice versa.

The screenplay not only focuses on the consistent shift from dream to reality, but also on the emotional and developmental conflicts of the protagonist in both the worlds. Nikhil earns very less, at his uncle Sankaranna’s (Achyuth Kumar) run down ‘talkies’ and his counter-persona Nikki, the movie star has everything that the world has got to offer. Nikhil’s desires to lead an inconsequential yet fulfilling life shadow Nikki’s adulation and need to regain his privacy.

The cleverly-written songs and amusingly witty lines keep every situation interesting enough to keep you engrossed. Out of all the scattered tracks, the police investigation one seems to be the weakest. Armed with majorly first time actors, heck, most of their names are taken off from their actual identities–there is some ham and cheese here at times. My favorite here was Achyuth Kumar, with his body transformation and character shift going hand in hand with his good performance.

Lucia has a gif too! Lucia has a gif too! (Click on it if in case it doesn't animate on this page)
Is Lucia watchable? Yes, even re-watchable! Should you slack in booking your tickets for it? No. PVR Directors Rare has nailed it once again with this selection.

My rating: ***1/2 (3 out of 5)

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