My lunch with Ritesh Batra

Lunchbox - Ritesh








By Neeru Saluja

Everyday, Mumbai’s famous dabbawallas deliver 200,000 tiffin boxes to office goers. There are 5000 dabbawallas who collect freshly made food from homes and deliver them to offices. Their transport mode is bicycles, carts and local trains. A tradition since 125 years, dabbawalas  make less than one mistake in every six million deliveries.

Lunch box - nimrat kaur








Lunch Box opens in selected cinemas in Sydney on July 10. TIDU gives it a 4.5 star rating out of five !

The movie Lunchbox is about that one tiffin that gets delivered to the wrong address. Though the delivery is wrong, the connection is right. A young neglected housewife connects to an older man facing retirement through a series of notes delivered with food in the lunchbox. Their notes gradually evolve into a series of intimate little confessions about their loneliness, memories, regrets, fears and small joys.

In 2007, director Ritesh Batra set out to make a documentary on the dabbahwallas and became friends with them. Instead of making the documentary, he found himself inspired to make a film revolving around them.

“I started immersing myself with their daily routine, and as we became friends they started telling me stories of the households they visited since decades. I became more interested in the people than the dabbawallas. I started writing their stories and then wanted to make a film about it.”

“As it was a story that revolved around dabbahwallas, it had to be about food. It’s a story about a woman who tries to fix her marriage through her cooking. She puts an extra effort in making her husband’s lunch but it gets delivered to someone else,” says Ritesh.

Though it’s been his debut film, it has already been screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Indian Film Festival of Melbourne and will be shown at the Sydney Film Festival. The movie has won him several awards in India and abroad. “I never imagined the film will do so well. When you are making a film, you are so engaged in the day-to-day activities. Then it was just about getting the film done. Lunchbox has been a blessing for me” tells Ritesh.

The intense execution of the talented cast is an integral part of the success of the film. “People often ask me about the choice of my talented cast. For the characters of Saajan and Shaikh, I always had Irrfan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in mind, but Nimrat Kaur was selected after four months of auditions. All of them were wonderful actors and worked very hard for the film. We started working on the film 4-5 months before the shooting started. It was a real joy and I had a lot of trust in them. Irrfan put a lot of trust in me and despite being so busy he took out a lot of time for me.”

Lunch box movie poster












Lunchbox is out and out Mumbai film and depicts the chaos of the city. “The film says a lot about Mumbai as a city. I’ve been born and brought up in Mumbai though I left it in 1998 to come to New York, it has always been close to my heart. My mum used to send food to my dad through the dabbawalla system. We started shooting three months in advance in a small apartment in Mumbai. Nimrat cooked in the kitchen and all the actors were involved in the production design. We actually followed the dabbawallas and shot them in documentary style. We filmed a series of scenes on the local trains. The movie did very well in Mumbai and since then it has been travelling.”

“It was the kind of the film we thought can travel. That is why I wanted an international collaboration. We had an American cinematographer and editor, a German sound engineer and composer to make it a universal product” says Ritesh.

lunch box 1 Irrfan Khan with Nawazzuddin

lunch box 1 Irrfan Khan with Nawazzuddin

Despite creating waves internationally, Ritesh has his feet firm on the ground. “I strongly believe people come and make the film. They bring their stories, their lives to it,” says Ritesh who always wanted to make films adding that the industry has been kind to him.

Lunch box with Navwazzuddin and Irrfan Khan









While Ritesh spends half his time in New York and half in India, he is enjoying the success of Lunchbox and is in no hurry to make another film right now. “I have no plans for my next project as yet. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading. I’m also spending a lot of time with press and attending film festivals. I’m in no hurry to figure out what to do next. Right now, I’m just content spending time with my 19 months old daughter” smiles Ritesh.

The Lunchbox opens on July 10 in Australian cinemas by Madman Films.

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