Notwithstanding the unostentatious title and the nondescript cast ‘The Lunchbox’ is one of those exquisite, quintessential cinema that Bollywood (Indian film industry) churns out every once in a while.
We undeniably live in an increasingly individualistic world where affectionate emotions have underlying shades of cynicism. As steadfastly as we hold dear our narcissist instincts , a modicum of camaraderie is all that our soul desperately craves albeit the objective denial. A dearth of companionship is known to have a profound effect on an individual’s psyche – often resulting in withdrawal syndromes, addictions and sequentially suicide. For Ila however, her predicament does not drive her to such levels of morbidity.
Ila is, what the Indian rhetoric dubs her, the archetypal housewife whose fate is etched in stone the day she ties the knot. The unimpeachable avowal of marriage inextricably links the Indian housewife to her beloved in a tacit agreement of servitude. Interestingly, Ila like all the rest is not one for kvetching. She would rather, in all earnestness, spend her entire life serving her husband and mothering the progeny. The movie opens with the quaint and charming Ila preparing a scrumptious lunch (Ila has a penchant for cooking, trying her hand at a number of dishes) for her husband, packing it in a tiffin box- stainless steel bowls stacked one over the other and clamped together at the top- to be delivered to him at his office by the ingeniously networked, meticulously operating, beating all odds and (of course) ‘Harvard researched’ world famous Mumbai Tiffinwalas. The said research projected the probability of these Tiffinwalas erring in a delivery close to zero.
So on the off chance that they do defect, it happened to be Ila’s. The unassuming recipient of the lunchbox is Saajan Fernandes – a diligent government employee, short tempered and a loner. Saajan is unfortunately, also a widower. Dedicating 25 years of service, he has been planning his retirement for a while now – desirous of a peaceful retreat to Nashik (a small town in the hinterland). Coincidentally, Saajan had an arrangement with a local dhaba to get his lunch delivered to his office. The day Ila’s tiffin box lands on his desktop he hardly suspects an anomaly except that he didn’t expect the crude restaurant to offer such a variety of dishes. Very well! After consuming the contents of the tiffin to its very dregs, the lunchbox is picked up from the office and sent back to the source – in this case, Ila’s home. Later, when she demurely asks her husband’s opinion about the lunch it dawns on her that it didn’t deliver to the intended recipient. The next day she sends a handwritten note with the tiffin, asking the unknown recipient (Saajan) about his opinion of the food. And so unspools an epistolary love story between Ila and Saajan with their bespoken exchange of letters.
I would not be surprised should every woman relate to Ila at some point during the film, whether as a mother, daughter, wife or neighbor. Every emotion is so raw, unmasked and genuine we are left to wonder whether what we see is not quite all that there is. It depicts the soliloquy of a housewife with bestirring audacity. Debutant Nimrat Kaur essays the role of Ila with utmost adeptness. Very few actresses would befit the role of Ila as good as Nimrat. Most certainly,Irfan Khan (Saajan) is the idiomatic cherry. International actor Irfan Khan is definitely not a novice. His past roles have spoken for themselves and Saajan is yet another in his kitty. I must give a special mention to Nawazuddin Siddique who plays the part of the ever-smiling Mr. Shaikh; getting the necessary humour to the screen. Shaikh is to succeed Saajan on his retirement and Saajan is entrusted with duty of running him through the induction. Siddique is another well known name in the realm of off-beat films.
The Lunchbox is a love story that is unlike any Bollywood stereotype you’d encounter. Director Ritesh Batra has weaved an ingenuous, lighthearted yet an unconventional take on the clichéd extramarital affair peppered with lovable moments that subliminally leaves a smile. It begs the question of unrequited love, one sided relationships. Do we expect more from the ones we love? How much more is more? Is there a parameter to gauge the unquantifiable ‘more’? Affection is fleeting and opportunistic; love peters out with the years. Is Ila being wistful in her effort to rekindle her relationship? Somewhere along the way, you draw the line. I read somewhere that it is bad to break a promise, but it’s worse to let a promise break you.
Even after 200 years since it was first published, Pride and Prejudice is a novel that continues to rivet generations of readers. Such is the magnificence of Jane Austen’s audacious writing which is evidenced not just by this one but also her novels like Sense and Sensibility, Emma etc. So profound is her ingenuity and clairvoyance that after the said 200 years we all know a Darcy, a Bennett, a Bingley and a Collins even today. Set in 19th century England, Pride and Prejudice narrates the story of Elizabeth Bennett as she comes to terms with her love for Mr Darcy whose insolence and vanity repulses her more than anything. A love story that navigates through the realm of morality, marriage and mores of early England. I’m not quite disposed to call it a love story alone, in spite of it being labelled ‘A love story beyond time’, because there is so much more happening in this book; a tempestuous relationship, delectable moments marked by humour and wit juxtaposed with its share of deceit and intrigue makes it a pleasurable read. However, this is not saying much, for if anything, Pride and Prejudice is ubiquitously acknowledged to possess some of the best characters in literature. Each character is so vivid that we can’t help but notice the striking resemblance in acquaintances of our own. Never have the characters of a novel so intrigued me as to imbibe in me a thirst for a detailed exposition on each of them.
Here are some of the main characters you will acquaint in this book:
1. Elizabeth Bennet:
Jane Austen’s favourite character, Elizabeth is fiery, feisty and furious. Yet, amidst all this energy she is sensible, audacious, precocious and composed. She is in complete contrast to her family members in terms of her civility and propitious public behaviour. Not easily deceived or deluded, but her pride may get the better of her. Her honesty and objectivity is what makes her so lovable n the eyes of Mr. Darcy. Her quick wit and quips are her best defense against any form of disdain impinged upon her by the aristocratic company she keeps in course of this story.
I couldn’t think of a better person who could so easily keep up with Lizzy’s traits other than Keira Knightley. She’s stupendous and her alacrity makes her endearing from the start go.
2. Fitzwilliam Darcy:
Darcy is a mysterious man, especially during the first half of this book. The reader’s curiosity is flared in pursuit of his character in the same degree as that of Elizabeth’s. Perceptibly insolent and haughty in the beginning, his true colours unfold as the story gets momentum. Darcy’s vanity is debatable on the premise that such loftiness is not uncommon in a man of such large fortune and nobility. A highly misunderstood man with pure intentions. Darcy presents a prodigious degree of nobility of character, love, friendship and sophistication. His disdain is for the lowly of natures, uncivil and inurbane behaviour. He does not engage in inordinate banter or chatter. Not the conversationalist. However, his engagements with Lizzy are so taut with emotion, the reader may enjoy the elephant in the room; the irony of Mr. Darcy falling for a woman who is so palpably incompatible with him.
I really must commend Matthew Macfadyen’s performance as Mr. Darcy. His innocent countenance was aptly captured in this movie than it would have for the reader to conceive in the book. Keira and Mathew share a fabulous chemistry on screen.
3. Jane Bennet:
Jane bears shades of the shy, complaisant, uncritical and ever-ready-to-please girl. She’s overly optimistic about every situation to the point that would question a prudent man’s rationale. Jane is beautiful and her ingenuousness adds grace to her beauty. She was deceived in more than one occasion yet she is not critical in the least about such a deceiver. According to her, humans are incapable of deceit. She is by no means over bearing. It is in fact of the contrary. Jane’s common disposition around everyone and her coyness in expressing herself makes a third person to question her indulgence which in this case is her love for Mr. Bingley. She shares a much affectionate relationship with her sister Lizzy than any of the Bennet sisters. Lizzy however is instrumental in preventing Jane’s discernment from being clouded later in the book as people’s true natures become conceivable to a delusional Jane.
4. Charles Bingley:
Bingley is responsible for creating quite a stir in the peaceful Longbourn house. In fact his presence is what ushers in the half the activity that surrounds the plot. Bingley again is a man of large fortune, amiable and urbane but with humility that instantly holds him in good stead with the inhabitants of Longbourn. But Bingley being the most likeable man seems gullible and indecisive. He fails rather to enquire after Jane regarding her feelings for him, which is not his fault alone as Jane herself didn’t as much show indulgence to his advances to evidence her affection towards him. He is polite and indiscriminating and delightfully entertains Mrs. Bennet’s officious behaviour. There’s not much that can be said of Bingley’s character as that which the book details of him is more of his virtues than his vices.
5. William Collins:
Mr. Collins is the very definition of a sycophant. If obsequiousness of the highest degree had been assigned a word it would unquestionably be Collins. He’s the most repulsive character followed by Mrs. Bennet’s. His inordinate fawning towards his patroness – Lady Catherine, is reminiscent of at least 6 people I know. Mr. Collins is the most resented character in this book. An incessant gloat and the concealed malevolence and censure in his behaviour are but the reasons for such an encompassing loathe for Mr. Collins.
6. Caroline Bingley and Lady Catherine:
These characters are very similar in view of their insolence, vanity and disdain for those of lower stature. Caroline appears to be a crafty, jealous and deceitful woman and her caprice is evident by her alternate affection and disaffection to her brother’s acquaintances namely Lizzy and Jane which are of course pretentious.
Lady Catherine however is more resolute and does not tolerate any impertinence directed at her. She does not possess the toady nature of Miss Bingley and exhibits a level of kindness and compassion to those who adulate her. Always the recipient of inordinate compliments and an unquestionable concurrence with her views and opinions, there is nothing that pleases her more.
7. Mr Bennet and Mrs. Bennet:
Mrs. Bennet could be a toned down version of Mr. Collins. Her flattery reaches such absurd levels that would be a stark affront to the recipient. She also enjoys and encourages her younger daughters’ frivolous indulgences in men, gossip and merry making which later have disastrous consequences. Besides, Mrs. Bennet clearly appears to be a dimwit with no sense of humour whatsoever. Her jealousy, rapacity and ill-will towards her neighbour and towards anyone who inasmuch does better than her make her a very detestable character. One is free to reason however that such overzealous flattery is but for the benefit of her daughters.
Mr Bennet is indolent and indifferent to his daughter’s activities though unlike Mrs. Bennet he does not indulge in them. However his inability to keep a check on their activities costs him dearly. Mr. Bennet is, nevertheless, a kind and loving father and his sarcastic humour is appreciably entertaining.
8. George Wickham:
Wickham is a young man of impressive looks and chivalry that makes the girls of Hertfordshire fall head over heels for him. Incidentally, Wickham is not all he seems to be. He is a treacherous, profligate and vicious man and his avarice is a source of many a trouble caused to the shire. His elopement with the youngest Bennet sister Lydia consequentially ends with their marriage after much solicitation.
Pride and Prejudice is a book I would definitely re-read sometime soon. They say that the classics give a different experience with every read. Have you read Pride and Prejudice more than once? Has it been a different experience the second time?
Note: The above are my views on the characters of this book based on my first reading. There is a possibility of having over looked or disregarded certain aspects. Also, I might have been too fastidious about certain characters. I shall definitely read upon these characters some more. Let me know what is your opinion of them? Do you concur or disagree? Leave a comment. I am really eager to know your views on this subject.
Disclaimer: This is more an exultation than a review. By no means do I, in my otherwise self-conferred privilege to opine on things in general, consider myself worthy to even think of writing a review for this film.
So, if I were to imagine this movie being directed, it would be something like this: David O. Russell wielding a baton, orchestrating a breathtaking emotional cadence like no other and Jennifer and Bradley swaying like figures in a musical trinket box.
David O. Russell prods you right where it hurts. That’s what I hate about a good movie; The vulnerability in lending your heart to the director. Submitting to his mercy. The director, who palpates it, wrenches it then like a palliating dose of anodyne gradually soothes the pain. Pain, which brings pleasure, peace, joy , happiness, laughter and a multitude of emotions.It is cathartic; therapeutic on several levels.
The storyline is simple, poignant and endearing. Nothing heavy or cerebral. It stays with you much after the credits roll; Pat Jr.(Bradley Cooper), diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, is released from a mental institution where he was held for assaulting his wife’s paramour. He moves back with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Then he meets Tiffany Maxwell ( Jennifer Lawrence) , a recovering sex addict, who turns everything around and how! I’m not going into the technicalities of the movie nor am I going to reveal the plot. I have half the world doing that.
Jennifer Lawrence is resplendent. So versatile, young yet precocious. A YouTube top comment read that if you were to snip off only her scenes from the movie, the snippets would make a movie in itself. That’s a performance. “Ravishing”, said a friend who detested her in The Hunger Games, and added how she could not take her eyes off her for a minute. She was dumbfounded, unable to fathom Jennifer play such a role. I don’t blame her considering the fact that we all remember her as Katniss Everdeen or Mystique. She won the Golden Globe for this film and I hope to god she wins the Oscar.
Bradley Cooper has evolved as an actor. He has finally progressed from slapsticks (The Hangover) and action (The A team) to something more sensible and emotionally stimulating- bagging him his first Oscar nomination. It’s sometimes very infuriating when persons with latent capabilities do not harness them or channel them adeptly. That was Bradley until Silver Linings Playbook.
Silver Linings Playbook, adapted from Mathew Quick’s bestseller with the same name, is seemingly a drama but it’s speckled with humour which will, in the least, definitely put a smile on your face if not roll you off your seats. Pat and Tiffany’s encounters are brimming with awkwardness, rawness and fervour. It’s delightful to watch them on screen. And as if this was not enough Jacky Weaver who plays Pat’s mom, Robert De Niro who plays his dad and Chris Tucker who plays Pat’s zany friend from the institution give equally impactful performances. It’s no wonder that the film won The Best Ensemble Cast in a recent award function.
Another aspect I really liked about this film is that there is nothing idealistic about the way in which relationships are portrayed. Relationships are tumultuous, people are capricious, we all have our share of ‘faux-pas’, OCD is something all of us struggle with, we all want a happy ending and we all search for a silver lining. Every scene and character is relatable, lovable. The scene at the Diner , the morning run-ins, Pat trying to pacify the irascible Tiffany, the dance sessions and of course the scene with Robert De Niro and Jennifer are some sequences you have to look out for.
Silver Linings Playbook is a happy film. Soulful and redemptive. It endorses optimism, EXCELSIOR, and makes you feel good about yourself. It’s filled with delectable moments and poignant dialogues. I cannot write a comprehensive review for this film. Words will fail me. However, I found a retweet by a friend which succinctly sums up everything I loved about the film.
“Sometimes we find ourselves clinging on to the one thing that’s breaking our hearts just so we don’t feel so alone. I love that the two main characters bonded over their heartache and healed each other in the process.”
Let me just say it. I’m sure that it WILL NOT win the Oscars considering the Academy’s inherent bias towards period films especially if it’s one that bespeaks of the most prominent figure of American History – Lincoln. Seriously AMPAS, get done with it already. Silver Linings Playbook is easily the best movie of the year.
“The only way to beat my crazy was by doing something even crazier. Thank you. I love you. I knew it from the moment I saw you. I’m sorry it took me so long to catch up.” – Pat
“I was a big slut, but I’m not any more. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself.” – Tiffany
“Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she’d fly”
Stupefied. Stunned. Spellbound. Held in such a fatal degree of stupor I must frequently remind myself to breathe. This moment, this feeling right now is one of sheer unfathomable joy; euphoric, to be precise. The rarefied elation on witnessing an enchanting novel unspool in this brilliance of a film. The Virgin Suicides is arguably one of the finest adaptations of the last decade and indisputably one of the most compelling novels of this epoch. I chanced upon the novel when it appeared as a recommendation on Goodreads. Then, a dear friend (An ‘art film’ lover, her film palate is rather quirky) told me about the film. Habitually, I always read the book before I watch the film.
The cover page (five withering roses arrayed against the colour of yellowed parchment), a premonition of the reverie I was to delve into. The novel revolves around the suicides of the five Lisbon sisters; Cecilia (aged 13), Lux(14), Bonnie(15), Mary(16) and Therese(17); Chaperoned by a martinet of a mother and an uxorious gauche of a father; both being religious, over-protective and overtly punctilious. Written in third person perspective, it narrates the incidents from the eyes of a bunch of sprightly teenage boys furtively observing the Lisbon girls – every move, every breath, and investigating the reasons which drove them to take such drastic steps. So entranced and obsessed were they by the beauty of the 5 goddesses, a mere glimpse of them sent chills down their spine. Their frail, lithe bodies, pale, rouged cheeks, rounded derrieres, golden locks of hair fluttering in the shallow breeze only fuelled the boys’ (and the reader’s) ever-escalating attraction towards them. The author ingeniously gives a subject as mundane and disquieting as Suicide an air of sublimity: ‘The essence of suicides consisted not of sadness or mystery but simple selfishness. The girls took into their own hands decisions better left to god. They became too powerful to live among us, too self-concerned, too visionary, too blind.’
A Master Novelist, Eugenides’s writing style is inexplicably eloquent, seemingly poetic and surreal, illuminating his flair and finesse. This is evidenced by some prominent quotes in the book;
“What lingered after them was not life, which always overcomes natural death, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.”
“We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.”
Apart from a strong plot and characterization, Eugenides alludes to the malice inflicting society; media propaganda, radical rectitudinous, bad parenting, alarming teen suicide rates etc. This is artfully brought to the fore with the deaths of the Lisbon girls and the void they left behind in the lives of the people.
The film directed by Sofia Coppola is a facsimile of the novel only reproduced as a motion picture with no annoying improvisations or digressing ends as is very commonplace with screen adaptations. Coppola’s exactitude with the characters and plot captures the essence of the novel which is commendable. The film’s gauzy-vintage feel makes the experience vicarious – reliving the glory years. The casting is superlative; from Josh Hartnett as the charming Trip Fontaine to Kirsten Dunst as the sultry Lux Lisbon
LUX LISBON! I’d be damned if I do not give a special mention to this character and to Kirsten who embodies her allure, promiscuity, callowness and alacrity. Her role has left indelible imprints on my inner eyelids titillating wakeful nights. It’s no wonder that Eugenides uses epithets like “Succubus” and “Naiads” to describe the Lisbon siblings. All of whom seem like an immaculate ethereal manifestation.
Both, the film and the book, are timeless, out of this world, sublime. However, The Virgin Suicides is not just a novel or a film but an ode to the glorious adolescent years.
Read it. Watch it. Cherish it.