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Updated: September 19, 2013 19:13 IST

Rewinding to romance

BHUMIKA K.
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SO NEAR, YET SO FAR Irrfan and Nimrat Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
SO NEAR, YET SO FAR Irrfan and Nimrat Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

A longing for enduring old-world romance in a facebook-driven all-instant age is what The Lunchbox brings to the table

Why don’t they just meet? Mail? Text? This is the age of social media, after all, and it’s not difficult to trace someone out!

That’s the exasperation and impatience of a Twitter-and-FB-possessed people on seeing the almost-retired Saajan Fernandes and homemaker Ila — strangers till a mixed-up lunch box delivery brings them together — exchange notes on notebook paper, tucked away under chapatis in The Lunchbox. That too without knowing each other’s names for the longest time! And waiting for replies. The relationship may be endearing, and the love and longing as delicious as the food that travels from the heroine’s kitchen to the hero’s table. It’s further frustrating and unheard of for most that the hero and heroine don’t share a single scene in a story of love!

So people seem to be asking actors Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, who play Saajan and Ila in the movie those same questions wherever they go. At a recent meet to promote the film, written and directed by Ritesh Batra, in Bangalore, the actors rooted for old-fashioned romance.

“You need a counter of what is in society,” was Irrfan’s justification. “And the counter is what we’ve already lived, what we had. Nostalgia. It gives you a picture of what you were missing.”

“The story is about slightly left-behind people,” offered a more practical Nimrat Kaur. “The story is tangible despite the fact that it’s a miracle — it’s a one-in-a-million chance that a lunch dabba delivered by the famous Mumbai dabba-wallahs gets switched.”

Speaking of the kind of romance that Hindi cinema has portrayed over time, and changes in our notions of romance, Irrfan says our cinema was always very romantic. “But it had vastly deteriorated. We’re trying to bring it back. Cinema reflects society and its mental makeup. Romance and titillation go together. How we long for a romance where you see a person, and fall in love with them immediately. Or you fall in love with a woman’s feet. It’s not in our lives maybe, but it’s there in our dreams and in our aspirations.”

Nimrat made a case for open-ended love stories. “I like the idea of not having a definition of love and romance. The greatest love stories have been about people who haven’t come together. More stories like that need to be explored. The superficial idea of love and romance has been explored over and over again …and it usually works! We just need a language to express it.”

The distance between the characters has a poetry to it, says Irrfan. The space between the two people is for the audience to root for them to meet, adds Nimrat. The film’s ending, without giving much away, was quite the matter of debate, centring around the fact that Indian audience want it all wrapped up and concluded. “Magical realism is what director Ritesh Batra is hoping for,” Irrfan put the case to rest.

The film, jointly produced by well-known production houses and studios across India, (including surprising combinations like Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, and National Film Development Corporation of India-NFDC), France, and Germany, releases today.

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