“The Lunchbox” was the last film I saw at the TIFF. The films had its premiere at the Roy Thomson Hall. Actor and star of the film, Irrfan Khan and director, Ritesh Batra were at the premiere.
During the introduction of the film, Khan and Batra spoke of how grateful they are to be able to premiere their film at the TIFF. Recognizing the TIFF’s film power and increasing importance in the film world, their humble and thankful attitude was pleasant. Batra was almost giddy-like in his excitement, practically buzzing in his skin in front of the podium, lovingly talking about his film and Khan’s performance and commitment to the film.
Khan was clearly a favorite among the audience, who showed their enthusiasm by clapping and hollering various shouts of “I love you!”. I’m not very thorough with my Bollywood film knowledge, but I had seen him in Life of Pi, so I was excited to see him in person. He was appreciative of the love and enthusiasm he received. He spoke highly of Batra, recalling moments on set that are memorable and meaningful to him, and moments that showed him what a talented, committed and hard-working director Batra is.
The premiere of the film started on time, however, about five minutes in, there was a problem: the subtitles were cut off. It looked like the ratio of the screen was off, like it was too zoomed in, so only the first line of subtitles were able to be read. The movie was stopped, the lights came back on and the audience was confused. Batra returned to the podium, where he proceeded to make light of the situation. His bubbly, funny personality came in handy here. He acted as a distraction of sorts, like an intermission entertaining act. He was cracking jokes, telling funny, behind the scenes stories about the film and he even good-naturedly poked fun at Khan.
The audience was enjoying every second of it. As the screen behind Batra was displaying a mess of subtitle and screen ratio issues, he was able to keep the audience from being too bored or annoyed about the delay. After about 30 minutes of his joking ways, Batra decided to hold the press and audience Q&A before the screening instead of prior, which is when it traditionally is. This was a bit inconvenient considering questions could be tailored to fit the details of the film.
However, it worked out just fine. The audience and press were able to ask some great questions and get insightful answers from Batra and Khan. The disturbance of the delay didn’t feel that unwelcome while Batra and Khan were entertaining the audience. It was a great way to put the audience at ease while the nearly hour-long process of fixing the issue was happening. Also, it gave the audience a glimpse into the director’s and actor’s personalities.
Batra’s joy and obvious love for “The Lunchbox” made was mirrored in the film. It’s clear he put a lot of his energy and time into telling the romantic, meaningful story of two down-spirited people finding love and comfort in each other’s words through their daily letter exchanges. The unfortunate delay of the film turned out to not be all that unfortunate, and instead extended the experience of the film premiere and allowed the audience to connect with and learn more about Batra and Khan. It was a great ending to my TIFF weekend.