“Badi bhookh lagi hai”, says Ila’s mother as her husband just died after suffering with lung cancer for years now. The paramedics are wrapping her father’s dead body as Ila looks on. “Aalu ke paraanthe khane ka mann kar raha hai, aaj subha se kuch nahi khaaya, tere papa ke liye naashta banaya tha”, she says again. As Ila consoles her mother or at least thinks that she is doing so, she says. “mujhe lagta tha, ye chale jaayenge to mera kya hoga” I do not remember the rest of her words. I am referring to Ritesh Batra’s debut movie The Lunchbox.
Tagged by most as a love story, about the concept of the wrong train and the right destination and of destiny playing its role, it has achieved its success I guess. Hidden in the commercial plot (if I’m not wrong), I saw a different perspective and an extended dimension to it. The impatiently waiting eyes of Ila, when it is about time for the lunchbox to be delivered back to her house. The awestruck expression she endorses on finding the lunchbox empty and presumably licked to gather every last ounce of its delicious taste. Her dressing up in as she waits for her husband’s to return from work, expecting compliments and affection. The carefree regard of the husband towards the lunch prepared with so much thought and desperation to gather attention. On finding how aloof her husband is that he did not even realize that he was delivered the wrong lunchbox, Ila showed signs of sadness and confusion but still no anger.
Her conversations with the aunty who lives in the house above hers adds something more to the movie, so does her mother’s conversation with her after her husband’s death. The only companion aunty has is Ila. Her routine is nothing but revolving around her husband. While he stares at the fan in his comatose state, all that woman can think of is ways of keeping that fan running. The only outing she does is when Ila is not around and she is forced to go out to get diapers for her husband urgently. On the other hand Ila’s mother spent her life till now bathing, cleaning and feeding her husband. Then there is Ila, whose life is spun around the struggle to gain appreciation and rekindle the love with her husband. On finding out about his affair with another woman, she does not react. Why does she not react? Is it because she is so upset or because it does not bother her anymore since she has accepted that there is nothing left to cradle to, nothing to hold on to. The non-reactivity is also reflected when Ila’s father dies and all her mother can realize is that she did not have her breakfast.
Looking closely you find a connection between the three women. The stories are interwoven, there is no disconnect. All three have gotten so used to living around the husband’s need, that it is only when they disconnect from them, they realize that there is something of their own existence too.
Is it the reflection of the multi-faceted society of pseudo cultures? There is no denial in the fact that it is her duty towards her husband for that she is struggling and suffering with him (all three of them), and may be more than him. More so, it is the state of utter dependence that forces the lives of these three women bend this way. Had it not been for Mr. Fernandes’s appreciation for her food, which came after so many years of being non-existent, could Ila ever have thought of moving out on her husband? Even though, she is still not sure if she would find him in Bhutan, the sudden appreciation of her delicious food did spark her confidence and will to be with someone who acknowledges her subsistence.
Is it not the general state of affairs – Being taken for granted – as it is called? I choose to leave an open end to this.