Dreamworlds and Claustrophobia

The Mumbai lunchbox delivery system choreographed a Bombay connection between a widower mid-level government officer, and an estranged housewife whose husband shows distance through ambivalence about the food she cooks for lunch. A well-spaced audience among the pruned greens of Hyde Park gathered to watch this film about food, claustrophobia and matters of the heart. This seemed an odd viewing. The brush of shoulders, stench of human sweat across the railway public of Mumbai seems to breed a geography of desire and disgust. This was a tale of claustrophobia. Smells, grunts, shoves, brushes shaped the pull and push of this odd connection. Notes came and went in lunchboxes. In and out of government files and kitchens. I can iterate what must have already been spoken about the film (it being a year old now) that it carefully dances a tightrope of loss and hope. Food and fart. Man and woman. The cityscape breathes life into this man’s (Fernandes, played be Irrfan) laconic, monosyllabic narrative. A trickster (Aslam played by Nawazuddin) turns into friend. A range of odd stories shape the clamor about striving and hoping and losing. We know that story. The railway lines bring back memories of college-romance uttered between crossing trains by Rani and Vivek, in Saathiya.

The film brings old tropes with fresh aromas. What is novel is how a story of claustrophobia is viewed in a milieu of symmetrical green lawns, some summer humidity and the calm force of orderly existence. A chance encounter of lonely souls in a crowded city, is made possible through the logic of disorder. Chaos. The surprise of anonymously cooked food under the whirring fans of the Claims Department is the only sliver of hope this crowded monster can offer. And in it, a lonely man learns to live anew. Wear a tie. And hide hope in a cautious shirt-pocket. Sweat, spice, humidity bring magic. Was this a tropical fantasy that the symmetrical green lawns wanted to purchase as a Saturday delight? It would be unfair perhaps to say if it did or not, definitively. Perhaps, these lawns shared in the craving of a sliver of hope too. In imagined brushes and nudges. For no one nudges here. And one watches films in the lonely simulation of those that nudge. Elsewhere. 


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