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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Ritesh Batra's "The Lunchbox" in Official Competition at London Film Festival


Ritesh Batra's critically acclaimed directorial debut "Lunchbox" has been entered in the Official Competition for Best Film at this year's British Film Festival, organizers announced today.

Widely described as the hottest independent film to come out of India in 2013, "Lunchbox" has already wowed audiences at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Rail d'Or, (Critics Week Viewers Choice Award).

Directed by Mumbai-born, New York-based screenwriter and short-film maker Ritesh Batra and produced by Anurag Kashyap, "Lunchbox" (or "Dabba", to give it its Hindi-language title) tells the story of an unexpected  love between a bored, disenchanted old clerk and a lonely housewife against the backdrop of Mumbai's famed "Dabbhawala" lunch delivery service.

The film features powerhouse performances by Nawazzuddin Siddiqui, Nimrat Kaur and Irrfan Khan who has described the film as having "a kind of emotional world that is very sweet, very unique and very interesting".

Following the film's screening at Cannes, Hollywood industry bible Variety said "Lunchbox' "touches the heart while steering clear of expectations" which had the "crossover appeal of Monsoon Wedding".

Fionnuala Halligan, film critic for Screen Daily, said the "elegant" film had a "wistful" quality to it and was "unexpectedly charming". 

Cary Rajinder Sawhney, Advisor on South Asian Cinema to the London Film Festival, told the UKAsian: "I think "The Lunchbox" is one of those rare Indian films that has global appeal.  It's about every day people caught up in an unusual setting.  It's really about friends and relationships and that has struck a chord with audiences.  It is just a very gentle, charming film."

The film is certain to become a film industry favourite and will have a gala premier at the Toronto International Film Festival later this year.

This year's 57th British Film Festival features a number of other films from the subcontinent.

Among the highlights are "Vara: A Blessing", Bhutanese director Khyentse Norbu's homage to Bengali cinema; "Fandry", Marathi director Nagraj Manjule's unflinching exploration of India's caste system; Richie Mehta's "Siddharth", a story about a Delhi tailor's quest to find his missing son; "Kalpana", dance maestro Uday Shankar's experimental film about classical Indian dance and "Jeevan Smriti" the final feature-length movie by the late Rituparno Ghosh. 

The 57th British Film Festival - which runs from 9th to 20th October - will be bookended by Tom Hanks' two latest releases.

The festival will open with Hanks' 'Captain Phillips', which tells the real-life tale of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009.

Saving Mr Banks, the untold story of how the Disney classic Mary Poppins made it to the screen - which stars Hanks and Emma Thompson, will close the festival.

The festival is set to screen more than 230 fiction and documentary features, including 22 world premiers.

For venues and screening times www.bfi.org.uk/lff

- Viji Alles

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