Bollywood Mumbai. It’s either gloss, glitz and glamour, or it’s oppressive, crowded and dangerous. And then there was a Mumbai in 80’s. Clean, sparse and decidedly middle class. Let’s visit that one, and take the crowds with us. Don’t worry, they’ll stay in the background and let us savor an intimate tale of a few souls.
Even in the acclaimed world of Dabbawallas, mistakes happen. Lives lived apart suddenly intersect, and parallel universes get a window to peak at each other’s trials and triumphs. Lives drifting in loneliness find anchors, and become anchors.
In short, man meets woman. I mean they don’t really meet, but they sort of collide. Without ever meeting. A story of food and its appreciation, of inherent warmth, even when there is a crusty exterior to go with it….. and of romance. Of hearts reaching across distances and saying hi to each other, getting enchanted slowly, and their story told in a genuine and heartfelt manner.
Saying Irrfan Khan is great is stating the obvious. Thats increasingly true of Nawazuddin as well. Note especially how in every role Nawazuddin looks as if it actually is his character shining through. The great discovery however is Nimrat Kaur. Subtly shifting between simple and exotic, her character and her acting make Ila seem familiar yet extraordinary. The stars of the film share a chemistry without sharing a screen, and there lies the strength of the film, both the writer and the actors.
See the characters evolve, see the relationships change, see the food become a member of the cast, and see mumbai become more or less oppressive, depending on the characters’ moods. The film is supposed to be a journey. This one shifts from melancholy to comic, from intimate thoughts to being a part of a crowd, and from strangers to something more than friends.
So, with the bustle of town all around, the sounds of a neighbor’s music become the soundtrack of li life, as does the singing in the trains. Chopping veggies in the train seems an act of love and the exchange of recipes and spices spark conversations and more. And mumbai is neither good or bad, it’s not even just the background. it just is. It’s part of the sweet sweet story. Bravo Ritesh Batra, you have written and directed a splendid debut.