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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

DABBA / THE LUNCHBOX (2013)

Ritesh Batra’s debut as writer/director is more savory appetizer than entrée, and perhaps too low key for its own good, but also consistently charming & engrossing, with a great gimmick for a narrative engine in Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system. It opens on a neat visual essay as homemakers & shops in the teeming megalopolis stack & sack interlocking metal food containers for the daily pickup. Soon, each personalized parcel is crisscrossing the city thru a variety of conveyances, destined for some office desk in time for lunch. But occasionally, one goes astray, and a widowed, soon-to-retire claims clerk winds up with another man’s lunch, kicking off an unlikely friendship with the discontented wife behind the perfectly spiced food. Notes are exchanged surreptitiously, impersonal at first, soon growing almost uncomfortably intimate. Can love come via lunchbox courier? Intelligently, if at times over-literally worked out by Batra, and very well played by Irrfan Khan (the adult ‘Pi’ in LIFE OF PI/’12) and Nimrat Kaur as the young, disenchanted wife, the story is kept from any monotony with help from Khan’s new, resilient assistant Nawazuddin Siddiqui, sporting some of the looks & moxie of a young Tony Curtis. A slight adjustment to match the film’s strolling rhythm, and it’s all quite unexpectedly moving.

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