The Truth Always Hurts.

My friends dragged me to see The Lunchbox on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t know who was in the movie, let alone what the movie was about. But I was there but with no expectation whatsoever.

Did I like the movie?

Yes!

It reminded me a lot about why Bombay is such a beautiful city. It reminds me about how we have relationships with absolutely random people for no rhyme or reason. It is probably one of the few places where people have friends not only at work and from school, college but also train friends, bus friends, the story teller rickshaw driver and the relationship with the baniya from whom you always buy things. Your neighbours are like family, they know more details about your life than your own parents do. There are people who exist whose favours you can call upon anytime even though they aren’t your best friends. It made me miss a lot of people I haven’t met in a really long time.

But, obviously there is a ‘but’ in this case.

The lunchbox most importantly reminded me, I’m a woman.
I’ll tell you why.

Ritesh Batra who has written the movie has such a strong sense of detail that it shook me to the core. The movie mainly revolves around the main characters of Ila, her lunchbox and Sajjan. There are people in and out of many scenes who have also been essayed very beautifully.

But I’m going to discuss mainly the 3 women in the movie – Ila, the auntie who lives in the house above (Mrs. Deshpande) and Ila’s mother; and a few other extra women in the movie. But I’m going to discuss only the women.

Ila is married and has a daughter and is trying to save her marriage going by the words – A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But he is cheating on his marriage and visibly doesn’t care. Ila’s parents are alive, but her father is battling lung cancer. She doesn’t confront her husband because she is financially dependent on him to help her father live. Her mother keeps wishing ‘if her son was alive’, but since he committed suicide there is no option there. Her mother evidently didn’t think it was right to take money from her daughter’s husband because, how will it look as they are the ladki wala. But she eventually concedes as there is no other way out.

 Ila while trying to save her marriage, consults Auntie (Mrs. Deshpande) who lives in the house above her. Auntie whips up the best concoctions to help her save her marriage. But the lunchbox goes to somebody else in vain. And Ila’s husband doesn’t care one way or another.

Ila then unknowingly starts a friendly relationship with the man who gets her lunchbox and cooks his favourite dishes. Ila, like all other women in this country loves to give love. So what if he isn’t her husband, at least she has an outlet for her love. This stranger gives her advice as to how to save her marriage. But that attempt goes in vain too. They write stories to each other every single day in notes inside the lunchbox. One of the stories that she writes about talks about how Auntie (Mrs. Deshpande) who lives in the house above has been living with a husband whose life is inside the fan as she puts it. He wakes up stares at the fan all day and sleeps at night. One day the electricity goes off and Uncle almost dies, but at the wee moment the electricity comes back and he’s alive. Since then Mrs. Deshpande has installed a generator so she never has to face an issue. Towards the end, she also says, she one day cleaned the fan while it was moving because if it would go off, so would Uncle.

Then there is the news bit story in the movie which says how a woman jumped off the terrace of her building with her child because of her marriage. Then there was this Sheikh’s (Sajjan’s Assistant) wife who couldn’t marry without her father’s agreement but ran away with Sheikh to convince her father.

All what I see in every role of the women played across this movie is how they are so dependent. Physically, emotionally, mentally, monetarily dependent. Each and every one of these women will not be able to live alone like most of the other women who have experienced marriage in this country.

Mrs. Deshpande installed a generator because she fears she won’t know what to do with herself at home. Ila cooks up lovely meals, wears her honeymoon dresses to woo her husband to save her marriage. But never confronts him as she needs his money. Her mother keeps wishing she had a son to save her and her father.

And this disappoints me. I’m a woman. And why do I need to be the one giving all the love, cooking up dishes to prove myself? Why can’t I be educated enough to earn and fend my family? Why do I have to ask my husband for money? Why are we in such dependencies which bind us and that which cannot be broken unless a man breaks it for us?

The sad part of this story is I’m a woman, and I know this is true. Every single part in this movie reminds me of the women we interviewed for a project and it reminds me how no matter how far we go, the Indian woman will always be bound.

Questioning this dire need of dependency was one of the primary reasons why Deshna and I worked on the project – To whomsoever this may concern. The stories of these women hit me, reminding me that women are the ones who are dependent, and float from one dependency to another. They live in fear that if they break free, what will life be like. They stick with marriages which are unloved and abusive because the society will otherwise shun you. They allow abuse to take place when eventually it can become numb and you deal with it like everything else that you do.

This dependency has nothing to do with women who are housewives. It has to do with women in general. We find that women in general who are working, successful, even entrepreneurs are mired into this dependency. It is also where we as a society fail. We raise our daughters to be good dutiful daughter in laws and wives but we forget to tell them that it is alright to be independent of people and things.

This is where the truth in the movie, The Lunchbox, hurts.

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Café Regular, by Ritesh Batra

28 April, 2013

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Café Regular, Cairo

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