Posts Tagged ‘The Lunchbox’

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Because that seems to be the only reason why none of us could speak out openly about our “best” film to be sent for Oscars in the Foreign Language category.

Now that i have seen it, let me say it loudly – The Lunchbox is Casablanca compared to The Good Road. I will come back to the film later. Let me also clarify few things first. I have been reading articles, posts and tweets on similar topic since last 3 days, and some of them are on such a wrong tangent. So here it goes.

Oscars

No, it’s not white man’s approval. It’s not even the best function or festival as far as films are concerned. Some of the best American films and actors don’t even bag a nomination. So why are we getting jizz in pants about Oscars?

Because it still matters. Because it’s money, market and reach. Because one nomination (and win) not only puts the spotlight on the director’s entire filmography but the country also comes into focus. Because it opens every possible door for its lead actors. The examples are many. In the last few years only Chile’s No, Israel’s Ajami and Footnote, Algeria’s Outside The Law, Greece’s Dogtooth, Denmark’s In A Better World, Argentina’s The Secret In Their Eyes, Japan’s Departures and Denmark’s After The Wedding have brought so much attention to their country’s cinema just by being nominated. Same goes for actors. Who knew Matthias Schoenaerts before the Bullhead?

A Cannes win also has the power to do all that. Ask the Romanian filmmakers. But Cannes is not so mainstream, Cannes is French, and Oscar is Amreekan. You know the difference, and two shall never meet. One is purely about cinema, the other is more about box office. Btw, do auteurs eat big burgers?

That’s the simple reason why Oscars count. Not for any white man supremacy. In 2011, when Asghar Farhadi went on stage to collect his award for The Separation, almost everyone knew that it was not only the “best foreign film” but it was the “best fucking film of the year”. The white man supremacy and approval logic is so 80s. The world went back to all his films and he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time magazine in 2012. Difficult to believe that the journey started with “Nader and Simin” (title was changed later) getting the distribution fund at Berlin fest.

So do i believe in Oscars? NO.

An award ceremony which never did any justice to Martin Scorsese, how can they be fair?

Do i watch Oscars? YES.

The only day in the year when i get up early and see the rising sun. Why? Because Marty believes in it. Because it’s good fun to watch some of your favourite actors, directors, screenwriters, all under the same roof and still be so cool and candid. And because they still make it “look” professional. Some of the best talents never get their due but when they get, it changes everything. One nod is all it takes. That’s it.

Foreign Language Category & The Good Road

In the last few years, this has become one of the most toughest category. The number of submissions keeps on increasing every year. You are not just competing with the best of the Amreekan cinema but from best of the world. Last year it was a new record with 71 films. This year’s running list already has 45 films. Heavyweight Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster is already in the ring.

Since FFI’s announcement on The Good Road came out, anyone having any doubts about it, the first question asked was have you seen it? And as far as i knew nobody except the FFI jury had seen it. So, before writing any post on it, i decided to watch the film, and am so so disappointed after watching it.

So far i was only arguing that it’s always about the “right” film at the Oscars, it’s not about the “best” film. Why get so holier than thou and sentimental about putting our “best” film?  Especially when Oscars is just another ‘market’ event that does wonders. Put the “right” film out, play according to the games, play it smart, and get a nod. Simple. Just look at the big picture.

Now, if i consider this is the standard of our best film which is being sent to the world audience, am sorry to say that people will laugh at us. Don’t believe me, go watch “The Good Road”. The film is easily available on dvds and #youknowwhere. It doesn’t even look professional. Except an idea and intention, it has nothing to offer. It’s boring, the production looks tacky, direction is bad, performances are inconsistent, and acting by non-actors look like non-acting only. The arid landscape and the use of music are the only things that work.

The only Oscars bait was a sequence involving young girls in prostitution racket standing on platforms surrounded by coloured tubelights. Haven’t seen anything like that on screen.

With “The Good Road” as our submission, what’s our chance at the Oscars? i think ZILCH. I hope am proved wrong but i doubt it.

And what i am most confused about is the sudden support for the film. As a friend pointed out, just because it has suddenly become the David in front of The Lunchbox Goliath with UTV, Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap in its support? Strange. Very, very strange. Watch both the films and compare the merits.

More strange is the fact that not a single mainstream critic in this country bothered to review the film when it released – in theatres and on dvds. That says more about the state of film criticism in this country.

The Lunchbox

With The Lunchbox, many of us believed it had a *chance*. Yes, just a chance. And we have been shouting about it. It’s a tough battle there. But with Sony Classics having its US rights and many influential American voices already pushing for it after watching the film at Cannes, Toronto and Telluride, it had the right visibility factor going for it. Michael Moore, Ted Hope and many others tweeted about it. Aseem Chhabra has written more about it here. Also, The Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire, the two ends of spectrum, were counting it among the frontrunners. And am sure they know (at least little bit) more and understand their Oscars more than us.

It was just not the “right” film but it’s a much, much better film than “The Good Road”. Just ideas and intentions don’t make a good film, or a good road.

So what did the FFI jury saw in the film which i could not? Let me quote from this interview of Gautam Ghose…

The criteria is simple — we had to select a film that represents the country perfectly.

WTF! Represents the country perfectly? As in peacocks and elephants? Do they watch the Oscars? Not sure what it means (Can someone explain?). After watching the film, all i can say is that The Good Road represents us amateurishly. You all made us look tacky in front of the world. Forget The Lunchbox, any other film would have been better too.

Though just Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur’s performances were enough to pick the film. These two are not just the best performances of the year in Indian cinema, but they can be easily counted as among the best ones in world cinema too. So I would sincerely like to smoke what the FFI jury was smoking. Anyone?

Because this was our chance. Because we needed it. We needed to tell the world that we do more than naach-gaana now. We needed to assure Sony Classics that you can look and pick more Indian films that can do wonders. You don’t need to wait for 10-15 years again. We needed to tell the world that it’s not just Iranians, Romanians, Koreans, Greeks and Australians, we are also heading in right direction. And this was the best stage to do it. We had a chance, a bright and fair chance. But what a fuck up! what a royal fuck up this turned out to be.

One more thing – who made the rules suddenly that FFI can’t disclose the names of jury members? I would surely love to know the names of those 12 or 15 or 19 people who thought The Good Road was better than The Lunchbox and every other film that was submitted for consideration. As far as i remember, when the jury meet used to happen in Mumbai, almost all the jury members used to present in the press conference to announce their choice. What happened suddenly in the last two years or so? Are they afraid to endorse the film publicly because their taste will be questioned? Someone enlighten me here too. Come on, come out, tell us you loved The Good Road. And as the saying goes, any festival selection or win always tells you more about the jury than about the film. I will still try not to judge you.

@cilemasnob

( PS – The only consolation is we are not the only morons. We have company)

If you follow this blog and twitter feed of our regular contributors, you know that we have been plugging, writing and tweeting about Ritesh Batra’s debut feature ‘The Lunchbox’ for a long, long time. The film is finally releasing this friday. Thanks to UTV and Karan Johar who came on board and made it happen.

And Dear UTV, for Ship Of Theseus, The Lunchbox and Shahid, sau khoon maaf (or Chennai Express maaf) this year from our side. Do continue the good work, or at least just the balancing act will do.

Over to Fatema Kagalwala who tells you why ‘The Lunchbox’ is a must watch and is easily one of the best films of the year.

Lunchbox copy

Cinema is a big lie. Loneliness isn’t as poetic as it pretends to be on celluloid. And nostalgia is a double-edged sword, its pain bitter-sweet but pain after all. Not many have the courage to show it as it is and we keep buying those lies, keeping the pretence going. Good things happen to good people in films but not real life. But who are we to conclude that? Definitely, not Ritesh Batra. Because, he is not pretending, nor bull-shitting us. He is simply throwing two situations, two people very real and painfully so, together and asking ‘what if’? And also, ‘what now’? And that is beautiful.

There is loneliness everywhere in the film. In every frame, every character. Accompanied by that unshakeably loyal bitch of a companion – longing. And along with it disillusionment, resignation and valiant attempts to overcome. In all the three central characters of the film played by Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddique.

I don’t know how to write a recco post without divulging too much. So free-wheeling it will be. In a Q and A, Ritesh Batra said there is a lot of nostalgia in every character, yearning for a time long past. And nostalgia is the step-child of loneliness, undesired yet cannot be shaken of. Always around to remind you the good times have long gone. But they needn’t stay gone. And as humans we will always wish for better times, strive for better times. And so do these three characters. Just like Georges in Amour. Or Salma of Lemon Tree.

How do you write about a film that you just liked and liked? No, there is nothing to dislike in the film. At least, there wasn’t to my eyes. Unless you are that guy who thinks old people and middle-class, married women with children cannot be protagonists of a film because their stories are drab. Had Ritesh Batra thought so, we wouldn’t have had Lunchbox, a deceptively feel-good film that goes just this much beyond feel-good, opening a world that is so ours yet painted with a warm, tender, home-grown, understated sensibility that till now we saw only in Iranian films.

So Irrfan Khan is an old man, Saajan Fernandes, who is about to retire from his job at the Claims Department in what I presume must be LIC, given it looks like a Govt organisation. He is a widower, childless, lonely and prickly like how the emotionally un-nurtured sometimes get. Work-wise he is punctilious, much respected and almost clock-work, again almost like how the emotionally un-nurtured sometimes get. He just might easily become Carl from Up in a few years. Or a middle-class Isak of Wild Strawberries.

One day, Saajan receives an unusually well-prepared lunch and then the next day a letter. He responds and a story grows out of those little bits of interactions that happen at lunch-time via a now-defunct medium – hand-written letters. The film packs such old-world symbols with aplomb, while just slipping them in casually. Letters, VCR with ‘Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi’ playing (Yes, sigh!), a song from Saajan; celebrating nostalgia with its characters and nudging us to try it too. Who knows we might like it too? And yes, I did. (Btw, is Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi on #YKW?)

The person on the other side of the letters is Ila, a young, middle-class housewife and mother, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties, who is already spent fulfilling the thankless responsibilities of a home-maker for a long time now. A few years older and she will become Francesca of Bridges of Madison County. But she isn’t there yet so she is conspiring with her neighbour aunty, present only in voice (the awesome Bharti Achrekar with her distinct voice), to win back the attentions of her husband, which, as they do, have eroded over time. Special lunches with special masalas are prepared in the hope that her husband will notice her again. But the first tiffin she sends him doesn’t reach him. Nor does the last. And by then it is too late. Maybe, that is better because what happens otherwise is what we want for Ila, not the dregs of a dead romance rekindled with wet wood.

And then there is Sheikh, played by that annoyingly smooth and frustratingly effortless actor Nawazuddin Siddique. An orphan who has come up on his own in this tough world and loves saying ‘Maa kehti thi’ because it adds ‘vazan’ (weight) to his quotes. He is looking for an anchor too and under his lisping, people-pleasing, yes-man, we see that vulnerable and achingly lonely man longing for someone elder he could call his own. He influences Saajan’s life as much as Saajan does his. (SPOILER – The scene where NS asks Saajan to represent him at the wedding may seem cheesy and clichéd but when Saajan actually does, the heft of emotion actually weighs you down. Suddenly, you realise this is what it meant to him. This is how much having someone you can call family can mean. By then, our Saajan has begun thawing too and we revel in it. SPOILER ENDS)

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, if there is a film that personifies this, it is Lunchbox. Ila is trying to win her husband back through it, Saajan’s tough crust begins to melt in it and we also see Sheikh trying to woo Saajan’s confidence by his own culinary talent, but along with suitable pride he takes in his wife’s cooking. If at all food was a central motif in a film it was this. Nourishment. We all need it. Physical and emotional. After a point, the physical nourishment and the loveliness that comes with the excitement of change just becomes a symbol of emotional nourishment.

It is as tender as it gets, almost as tender as ‘Mary and Max’ was. The characters could just be Indianised versions of that touchingly, understated and very well-written film. The promises in Lunchbox are slightly more populist, a wee dream-like to really compare. But that is where it scores. In maintaining that thin line between selling dreams and mirroring reality while infusing hope. And if not for the ending, it could have killed the film, or dragged it down the much-beaten path of ‘potential thi, expore nahi kiya.’ Because, in the end, try as we might to resist it, suddenly it becomes our story, we are pulled in, by force. Forced to commit to it, engage with it at a deeper level because our own catharsis depends on it. How? Experience it and then we will talk.

I haven’t watched a movie on old age more painful than Sarah Polley’s ‘Away From Her’, which shows the pain of growing old in all its nakedness. Irrfan as Saajan is brilliant as he wears that pain as a daily accessory, treating it almost as a part of life. Yet, there is a balance in tone, where we never indulge in his sorrow vicariously, yet it touches us as we see him being rough with little kids and then staring longingly into other people’s houses, watching them eating noisily together. We worry what will happen to him now that he is retiring and from the looks of it, it seems he is worrying too. Just that his worries are masked with a longing he himself doesn’t want to admit.

Ila on the other hand has been brave enough to admit it. And brave enough to do something about it. She has a confidante in her neighbour aunty who has been taking care of her bed-ridden husband for fifteen years without complaint. And she has a mother who, instead of being in pain, feels empty and relieved, the day her husband dies. All she feels is hungry she says and it is a stunning metaphor of nourishment again. What comes out after the cork is removed on years of repression, years of living with an extinguished relationship? Maybe, Ila sees her future in her mother because, we surely do.

A lot of the film is editing. Ritesh Batra admitted it too. The stories of Saajan and Ila are inter-cut with an intuitive sense of excitement. It is all repetitive, everything the two do, they can’t help it, their lives are like that, mundane, boring and same always. What’s worse, ours is the same but the story-telling takes care of that, there is no boredom or ennui hitting us. Slightly mismatched voice-overs, visual exploration of possibilities and a sense of control in scenes showing Saajan and Ila alone transports the film out of monotony so much that the deliberately cultivated tedium becomes part of the fabric of the film without becoming an obstacle.

There is a refreshing un-self-consciousness about the film that is so rewarding, one is wonderstruck to know it is the director’s debut film. Irrfan Khan, we know isn’t a self-conscious actor, repetitive and uninspiring he maybe at times but never self-conscious. Nimrat Kaur isn’t either and it is a pleasure to watch two actors who know the meaning of restraint and understatement. Nimrat Kaur takes the staid and plaid Ila out of her very common characterisation and infuses so much warmth in her that we cannot but help root for her. All this without any manipulation. However, while the world was busy adoring Irrfan I gave away my awe and jaw to Nawazuddin Siddique. The man is something else. Would it be blasphemy if I say watch the film for him above all?

Mumbai is a silent character as well, looking on at its victims, as they grapple with their lives in this big, sprawling city of faceless people full of dreams waiting for a miracle to transform their lives. Do Saajan, Ila and Sheikh find theirs uplifted? Do their dreams find wings and their desires expression? Does loneliness consume them or release them to fly on? Is loneliness on celluloid different than it is for you and me? There is only one way to find out and that is by watching this delectable film this Friday. If only we got fare like this more often, we’d be feeding off the cinemas more often too. Here’s wishing Lunchbox a dream run at the BO.

London Film Festival (LFF) has announced its schedule for this year. The 57th edition of the festival will run from 9-20 October and will screen 234 feature-length films & 134 shorts from 74 countries.

India seems to have a good score at LFF this year as seven desi films have been selected for the fest. The titles include Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa, Ritesh Batra’s fest favourite The Lunchbox, Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry, Richie Mehta’s Siddharth, Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran’s From Gulf To Gulf, Rituparno Ghosh’s Jeevan Smriti and Uday Shankar’s Kalpana. The Lunchbox is in official competition section of the fest.

But the one that we are most excited about is Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa (Sniffer). We have been hearing about it for sometime and now more details have come out.

ANWAR KA AJAB KISSA

sniffer-002

Master Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta teams up with India’s hottest indie actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui in this richly textured black comedy, set against a magical, surreal tableaux of the Bengali city and countryside that’s typical of Dasgupta’s eye. Anwar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a well meaning if clumsy private detective, or ‘sniffer’, who can’t help getting personally embroiled with the clients he is spying on. His only true companion is an old dog. His pet and his regular drunkenness put him at odds with the local orthodox Muslim housing block, who want him out. At the same time, Anwar increasingly struggles to cope with his small-time sleuth work that shows him that, in the modern world, even love is for sale. When a case takes Anwar back to his rural homeland, he’s forced to confront his own love tragedy. Siddiqui lights up the screen, displaying a talent for deft comic timing that makes Sniffer a joy to watch.

– Director-Screenwriter : Buddhadeb Dasgupta

– Producers : Ajay Sharma, Archismaan Sharma

– With Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Ananya Chatterjee

– Duration :132 mins

FANDRY

fandry

The ‘untouchable’ Jabya struggles to reconcile his status with his dreams in Nagraj Manjule’s uncompromising indictment of India’s caste system.

– Director-Screenwriter : Nagraj Manjule

– Producers : Vivek Kajaria, Nilesh Navalakha

– With Somnath Avghade, Suraj Pawar, Kishor Kadam

– Duration : 105 mins

– Production company Navalakha Arts and Holy Basil Combine

Nagraj Manjule’s film is a scorching indictment of the caste system that persists in modern India despite legislation introduced since independence. It is depicted through the eyes of an intelligent Dalit (untouchable) teenager, Jabya, who has a deeply rooted inferiority complex about his looks, caste and his family’s staggering poverty. These feelings prevent him from expressing his affection for his fellow classmate and cherished love, the fair-skinned Shalu, who is the daughter of a higher-caste family. His father is against him going to school and aspiring too highly and fellow villagers expect him to do menial work like the rest of his clan.

SIDDHARTH

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A modern-day quest to find his missing son leads Delhi tailor Mahendra on a perilous journey into the unknown in Richie Mehta’s cautionary tale.

– Director-Screenwriter Richie Mehta

– Producers Steven N Bray, David Miller

– With Rajesh Tailang, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Anuray Arora

– Canada-India 2013

– Duration 96 mins

– Production company Poor Man’s Productions

– Sales : Fortissimo

Director Richie Mehta returns to London with a powerful tale that is all too sadly a common story in today’s Indian cities. In Delhi, a door-to-door tailor, Mahendra, and his long-suffering wife, played by Tannishtha Chatterjee (Brick Lane), are struggling to make ends meet. They send their 12-year-old son Siddharth off to work illegally in a factory in Punjab, but when he doesn’t arrive back on the agreed date, the couple go to the middle men who arranged their son’s job and then the police. As they don’t have a photo of their son, identification is near impossible. As tales of child abduction are raised the desperate father borrows money from his fellow local street vendors and sets off on a quest to trace his son’s journey into the unknown.

FROM GULF TO GULF

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Mobile phone video from the sailors who brave the routes between India and the Persian Gulf form the basis of grassroots true-life adventure.

– Directors : Shaina Anand, Ashok Sukumaran

– Producer CAMP

– India-United Arab Emirates 2013

– Duration : 81 mins

– Production company : Sharjah Art Foundation

‘A film based on actual events, and videos of actual events.’ Four years ago the Indian artists’ collective CAMP started to work with the boats that crisscross the Arabian Sea from the Gulf of Kutch between India and Pakistan to the Persian Gulf. This film draws from these years of dialogue, friendship and video exchange with sailors, most of whom are from Gujarat in India, Southern Iran and Pakistan. Rather than directing, the filmmakers act as editors, deftly compiling from the sailors’ mobile phone footage an authentic grassroots picture of the experiences of these usually invisible sea workers. But, with the impressive wooden boats and the joyous soundtrack (chosen by the sailors themselves), this humble material is ultimately transformed into a modern adventure on the high seas.

 JEEVAN SMRITI

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The swansong of the late Rituparno Ghosh is a fittingly personal take on the LFF favourite’s own inspiration, the poet-artist Rabindranath Tagore.

– Director-Screenwriter : Rituparno Ghosh

– Producer : Sanjoy Nag

– With Sanjoy Nag, Samadarshi Dutta, Raima Sen, Anirban Ghosh

– Duration 78 mins

– Sales : National Film Development Corporation

This is a sumptuous, very personal docu-drama about his own inspiration – the legendary poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore. Flamboyant Rituparno, with his camera team, set off from Kolkata in the monsoons to Tagore’s country birthplace, on a journey of love and poetic admiration. On the way they uncover the lesser-known personal life of this Bengali hero. A stunningly photographed dramatic story, backed by great actors like Raima Sen, depicts the inner struggles of the young, introvert Tagore who, in spite of his comfortable background, was constantly tortured but also inspired by love and terrible loss.

Kalpana is Uday Shankar’s classic which has been restored by World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna/ L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with the National Film Archive of India.

Info and pics courtesy : BFI

The Lunhcbox2Cannes, Award, Sony Picture Classics, Toronto Festival, KJo-UTV release, and now, Telluride – this must be a dream run for a debut filmmaker.

The much respected Telluride Film Festival has just unveiled its line-up for this year. The fest is known for keeping its film selections a secret till the last minute. This year, the festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary and will run from 29th August to 2nd September.

Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox is the only desi film at the fest this year.

And have we told you guys how simple, solid and awesome it is. It’s releasing on 20th September, and if you trust our film reccos, you can book your tickets.

 

To know more about the film (cast/crew), synopsis, trailer, click here.

 

With UTV and Karan Johar on board as presenters, and with a release date (20th September), Ritesh Batra’s debut feature finally gets a trailer. Have a look.

As i keep repeating myself, don’t miss this one. It’s easily one of the best films of the year – simple and solid. And with two terrific performances – by Irrfan and Nimrat Kaur.

And here’s the official synopsis

Middle class housewife Ila is trying once again to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes that this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. Unknowing to her is that the special lunchbox she prepared has been mistakenly delivered to an office worker Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox, in the hopes of getting to the bottom of the mystery.

This begins a series of lunchbox notes between Saajan and Ila, and the mere comfort of communicating with a stranger anonymously soon evolves into an unexpected friendship. Gradually, their notes become little confessions about their loneliness, memories, regrets, fears, and even small joys. They each discover a new sense of self and find an anchor to hold on to in the big city of Mumbai that so often crushes hopes and dreams. But since they’ve never met, Ila and Saajan become lost in a virtual relationship that could jeopardize both their realities.

Cast

Irrfan Khan as Saajan
Nimrat Kaur as Ila
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shaikh (Saajan’s Colleague)
Denzil Smith as Mr. Shroff
Bharati Achrekar as Mrs. Krishnan
Nakul Vaid as Ila’s Husband
Yashvi Puneet Nagar as Yashvi
Lillete Dubey as Ila’s Mother

The film had its premiere at the Cannes Film festival in Critics Week section. To know more about the film, click here, here and here.

Lunchbox

Here’s the good news about one of the best films of the year, The Lunchbox. Producer-director Karan Johar has come on board to present the film and it will be released by UTV on September 20th. This is exactly what we need – big faces should attach themselves with brilliant indies and make them reach the theatres. Otherwise distribution is a pain in the current scenario. After Kiran Rao came on board to help Ship Of Theseus’ release, this is another step in right direction.

Some of us have seen the film and let us assure that it’s a simple and solid film. Directed by Ritesh Batra, it’s not only one of the best debuts of the year, it also has two of the best performances of the year – Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur.

– You can read more about “The Lunchbox” here (on Sony Classics deal) and here (all the Cannes buzz)

And now another bit of news – The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its first list of films selected for the 2013 edition of the festival. And two desi films feature in the list – Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox and Maneesh Sharma’s Shuddh Desi Romance. Here’s more on both the films (from the official release) :

The Lunchbox Ritesh Batra, India/France/Germany North American Premiere

– Middle class housewife Ila is trying once again to add some spice to her marriage, this time through her cooking. She desperately hopes this new recipe will finally arouse some kind of reaction from her neglectful husband. Unbeknownst to her, the special lunchbox she prepared is mistakenly delivered to miserable office worker Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. Curious about the lack of reaction from her husband, Ila puts a little note in the following day’s lunchbox which sparks a series of exchanged notes between Saajan and Ila. Evolving into an unexpected friendship between anonymous strangers, they become lost in a virtual relationship that could jeopardize both of their realities.

Shuddh Desi Romance Maneesh Sharma, India Canadian Premiere

– Shuddh Desi Romance follows a fresh and very real love story about the hair-raising minefield between love, attraction and commitment. A romantic comedy that tells it like it is, providing a candid look at the affairs of the heart in today’s desi heartland. Starring Rishi Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra and Vaani Kapoor.

Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (Dabba) and Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout had their premiere screenings at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. Lunchbox is selected in International Critics Week section and Monsoon Shootout had a midnight screening. Some early reviews of both the films have been pouring in. For curious folks like us, here are the excerpts and links to the reviews.

Variety review is here

A feel-good movie that touches the heart while steering clear of expectation, “The Lunchbox” signals a notable debut from tyro helmer-scripter Ritesh Batra. The ingredients on their own are nearly fail-proof, yet it’s the way Batra combines food with an epistolary romance between a nearly retired number cruncher and a neglected wife that hits all the right tastebuds. An indie Indian pic with the crossover appeal of “Monsoon Wedding,” it’s sure to be gobbled up by audience-friendly fests before heading into niche cinemas.

Screen Daily review is here

A wistful, elegant love story played out across the streets of Mumbai, The Lunchbox is an unexpectedly aromatic charmer from first-time film-maker Ritesh Batra. Eschewing the pitfalls of what appears, on face value, to be a highly schematic set-up, Batra infuses his film with warmth and humanity, while cameraman Michael Simmonds steps up to deliver delicate visuals of modern Mumbai.

Film Business Asia’s review is here

There’s hardly a shot, line or gesture out of place in The Lunchbox, a hugely impressive feature debut by Mumbai-born, partly New York-based Ritesh Batra that starts out like a foodie film but spins a simple idea into a whole mini-universe of feelings.

– To watch the presentation ceremony video, click here

– To watch Ritesh Batra’s interview, click here

– Two clips from the film

Cast and crew list

Directed, written by Ritesh Batra.
Camera (color, widescreen) – Michael Simmonds
Editor – John Lyons
Music – Max Richter
Production designer – Shruti Gupte
Costume designer – Niharika Bhasin Khan
Sound (Dolby Digital) – Michael Kaczmarek, Ramesh Birajdar, Joerg Theil, Tom Korr
Line producers – Meraj Shaikh, Smriti Jain
Assistant director – Prerna Saigal
Casting – Seher Latif.
Cast – Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar, Nakul Vaid, Yashvi Puneet Nagar, Lillette Dubey

And here are the reviews of Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout.

Peter Bradshaw’s review is here

It’s a moody, broody downbeat drama for most of the time, a rainy noir. But along with the plot trickery, there are some unexpected turns…..It’s an entertaining popcorn-movie with a twist, for which commercial success is on the cards. There should be space for pictures like it in Cannes.

The Hollywood Reporter review is here.

A cunningly intricate first film from India, Monsoon Shootout combines the best of two worlds – a ferocious Mumbai cops and gangsters drama, and a satisfyingly arty plot that turns in on itself to examine the outcome of three possible choices a rookie cop might make when he confronts a ruthless killer. Three times the story returns to a key moment: a boy with a gun uncertain whether to pull the trigger. Though the idea of Dirty Harry meeting Sliding Doors may sound abstract, writer-director Amit Kumar pulls it off gracefully, without losing the sense of heightened drama that earned the film a Midnight Movie slot in Cannes. The Fortissimo release should make good headway in territories open to India and exotic genre fare and put Kumar on festival radar.

Screen Daily review is here.

Serving up a portion of Rashomon with a side of Sliding Doors, this tasty Mumbai crime story offers multiple outcomes of one fateful decision in a rookie cop’s professional life. Though it sounds like a potentially experimental premise, Monsoon Shootout is a glossy ethical drama designed to appeal equally to more upscale Indian audiences and worldwide genre fans.

Film School rejects review is here

The Upside: Nicely photographed; boasts decent enough lead performances, specifically the presence of Thapa as Adi’s beau; sound editing is also strikingly effective

The Downside: Aspirations towards existentialism don’t pay off well because it lazily recycles some grand ideas, but without the same level of ingenuity and entertainment value; atrocious editing stifles the action beats, which are themselves too sparse and brief to satisfy.

Here’s the Variety review:

“Monsoon Shootout” is a racy mash-up of Tarantino-esque ultra-violence and-gritty but-hip contempo Indian actioners. Amit Kumar invests a schematic police-thriller structure with a compelling moral dilemma hinging on a standoff between a cop and his suspect.

And here’s the Rope of Silicon podcast on the film.

A look at the film:

Cast and crew list

Production companies: Yaffle Films, Sikhya Entertainment in association with Pardesi Films AKFPL, Dar Motion Pictures

Cast: Vijay Varma, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Neeraj Kabi, Geetanjali Thapa

Director: Amit Kumar

Screenwriter: Amit Kumar,

Producers: Trevor Ingman, Guneet Monga, Martijn De Grunt

Co-producers: Anurag Kashyap, Arun Rangachari

Director of photography: Rajeev Ravi

Production designer: Mayur Sharma

Editor: Atanu Mukherjee, Ewa Lind

Music: Gingger Shankarv Sales Agent: Fortissimo Films

88 minutes

(Pics taken from various online sources/social media)

Update: TWITTER BUZZ…

Since reviews for Indian films are scarce, we decided to add some tweets into the mix.

On The Lunchbox:

THE LUNCHBOX (R Batra): Like a bonsai tree, modest but magnificent. Standout performances. Bit cloying, but only if you want to find faults. — @bgji May 20, 2013

A very well-deserved, sustained, standing ovation for The Lunchbox at Cannes. Congratulations, Ritesh!! — @Shripriya May 19, 2013

On Monsoon Shootout:

MONSOON SHOOTOUT is the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ of crime actioners. I’m not completely convinced, but I do respect the ambition. #Cannes — @RylandAldrich May 19, 2013

MONSOON SHOOTOUT (D-) 3 versions of the same story, except it’s not as the filmmakers abandon the logic of the conceit. Morally dubious too — @CSkinner May 19, 2013

MONSOON SHOOTOUT does somehow seem to have become the defining film of the Festival. #cannes2013 — @JonathanRomney May 18, 2013

MONSOON SHOOTOUT (A Kumar): Thoroughly ordinary. Heavy handed 3 pronged narrative structure/metaphor. More imagination re: Bombay, please. — @bgji May 19, 2013

Monsoon Shootout is the Sliding Doors of cop thrillers. Fleetingly entertaining but the alt-outcomes narrative wears thin… #Cannes2013 — @totalfilm May 19, 2013

Monsoon Shootout – 2/5. Slumdog Millionaire meets Run Lola Run (Run Slumdog Run?) in fecklessly bloodless gimmick thriller #Cannes2013 — @ShaunMunroFilm May 19, 2013

MONSOON SHOOTOUT is the Indian RUN LOLA RUN if RUN LOLA RUN were a predictable cop drama. #Cannes2013 #cannes — @FredTopel May 19, 2013

On Ugly:

UGLY (A Kashyap): A Blaft-like pulp thriller with @ankash1009 bravely pushing his style to the limits. Depressingly hilarious & brilliant. — @bgji May 18, 2013

And finally…

UGLY and MONSOON SHOOTOUT taught me not to be a person who works for, needs help from, or who is wanted by police in India. #cannes2013— @marshalclark) May 19, 2013

Jai Ho. 🙂