The media and men in India have begun to play judges. When the Delhi rapists were being tried, people were shouting from the rooftops that the men be hanged. The media was conducting its own trial. Now with the Academy Awards too, the media and the men seem to have decided – even as a committee under the chairmanship of Goutam Ghose is watching the films -- which Indian movie ought to be sent up for a possible Oscar nomination in the foreign language section.
It should be Ritesh Batra’s Dabba or The Lunchbox. The verdict appears unanimous. Though we do not know what the Ghose panel itself will decide.
Indeed, The Lunchbox is a fascinating film. No doubt about this. Of the four movies screened at Cannes in May, Batra’s work was by far the best. It was miles ahead of the rest – Monsoon Shootout, Ugly and Bombay Talkies. It was a pity that the Lunchbox was not chosen to play in the Festival’s official categories. The movie was part of a sidebar.
Although The Lunchbox is a superbly crafted work and wonderfully acted out movie with the helmer not allowing it to sink into a melodramatic mishmash, the film may not be an ideal choice for the Oscars. For, it has a plot which has nothing specifically Indian about it, except for the fact that it has the “dabba” system as its background. Take this element out of the movie, the almost invisible romance between the elderly widower and the youngish, bored woman could happen anywhere on this earth.
If one were to look at the three films which made it to the Academy’s short list of foreign nominees in all these decades, they were essentially Indian, and incredibly so. Mehboob Khan’s Mother India, Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan were firmly rooted in the Indian soil with narratives that revolved around the Indian psyche. They captured the very essence of the nation and its pulse.
Unfortunately, The Lunchbox – if at all it is selected – has none of these qualities. And like many, many other movies that India has sent to the Academy in all these decades, The Lunchbox may come a cropper. The title of the Indian entry is likely to be announced on September 22.