Lenore Pomerance interviews Navmoon Mann on presenting “The Lunchbox” for the MAGPS Cinema Series October 6, 2018 movie.
Dr. Navmoon Mann and I had a chat about the Indian movie, “The Lunchbox” that we are presenting Saturday, October 6, at Lorraine Wodiska’s house. Navmoon said this movie is very reflective of middle-class Indian life. He thought it would not be amusing, maybe even boring, to Indians because it is too much like real life. He feels Indians respond more to dancing movies with happy endings. This brings to mind “Bollywood” movies which typically are love stories with a lot of men and women dancing and singing. However, when I checked The “Lunchbox” on Wikipedia it appears that it was very popular in India, and was the highest grossing Hindi movie for the male lead, Irrfan Khan up to that time.
In fact, according to an interview in The Guardian the director, Ritesh Batra, was surprised that “The Lunchbox” had become a box office phenomenon at home. He said, “It’s a good sign that home audiences are changing – people want to see their stories on screen. My parents were worried for me when I showed it to them. My mum couldn’t understand why I hadn’t included any songs.” Or, much in the way of action or escapism. But not only was “The Lunchbox” successful in India it won many prizes abroad and grossed millions of dollars over its budget.
Navmoon and I talked about social class and social roles depicted in the film: women, the infirm, the elderly, and even those without family. For example, women’s roles as caretakers, and even as unhappy wives are poignantly portrayed. Again from The Guardian’s interview with the director: when Batra was asked if he consciously highlighted women’s issues, he indicated that not being a woman he was not overtly conscious of doing that, but as a new father to a daughter he hoped conditions would be different for her. He stated, “Last year, I was driving in Mumbai when this review show came on the radio and they were talking about my film. I had to stop the car. People were phoning in with these stories – ‘My mother watched it three times when she was dying of cancer, because it made her happy’ – or about how the film tapped into women’s issues.”
On another topic, Navmoon didn’t think this movie could be made in the U.S. because he feels it is more reflective of a restricted, orthodox society where social and family roles are fixed: the young wife spending most of her day preparing her husband’s lunch and dinner and taking care of their child; the aging, widowed office worker expected to go to live in a senior community, aging wives taking care of terminally ill husbands. I wasn’t sure that is true. Perhaps a stereotype portrayal in American movies of social disintegration and rootless nuclear families is just that, a stereotype that can be disproved by examples in everyday life. A great topic for our group discussion.
Another richly portrayed “character” in the movie is the lunch delivery system in Mumbai which has been in existence for 125 years. In it, 5,000 or so lunchbox delivery men, the dabbawallahs transport hundreds of thousands of tiffin lunches back and forth from home kitchens and restaurants to office workers in the world’s fourth most densely populated city. Harvard Business School commissioned a six-month study into the service in 2010 that worked out that only one in a million deliveries go awry. Batra’s film hones in on that one.
So join Navmoon and me in watching and discussing this delightful film.