New Delhi: Ritesh Batra initially set out to make a documentary on Mumbai's dabbawalas but he was so fascinated with the little personal stories behind every lunchbox that he ended up making a film on these experiences.
'Lunchbox', which is one of the four films selected for Cannes Film Festival this year, is Batra's debut feature film, starring Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Nimrat Kaur.
Batra, who has been behind award-winning shorts like `The Morning Ritual`, `Gareeb Nawaz ki Taxi` and `Cafe Regular`, `Cairo`, says it was a journey for the entire cast to shoot this film.
"I started working on the film in 2007. I wanted to make a documentary on the dabbawalas of Mumbai and spent about a week with them. But I became more interested in the personal stories that they knew about each family. I wrote the first draft of the film in 2011 and we shot it last year," Batra told reporters in an interview.
The film revolves around a mistaken delivery in Mumbai`s efficient lunchbox delivery system. This wrong delivery of a lunchbox connects a young housewife to a man in the twilight of his life.
They build a fantasy world through an exchange of notes.
Batra is looking forward to present his film at Cannes, which is celebrating Indian cinema`s 100 years this time.
"I always wanted `Dabba` (Lunchbox) to be a film that travels. I wanted to make an honest and universal story so I am thrilled to see it being screened at Cannes. I am not going there will any other expectation. We will finally get the chance to watch the film as an audience," he said.
The film has multiple producers and already a sales agent for Europe. It has producers like Sikhya Entertainment, DAR Motion Pictures, co-producer National Film Development Corporation and from France ASAP Films and Rohfilm from Germany.
Batra is already a familiar name in the international film circuits thanks to the recognition his short movies generated.
There was a lot of interested in `Lunchbox` right from the very beginning.
Bringing together two formidable actors like Irrfan and Nawazuddin was not difficult for Batra.
"Irrfan saw a short film of mine and he read the script. He loved the story and then we met few times and went through the script deeply. His character does not talk much except in the little notes that he writes and Irrfan liked this aspect of the character very much and he was on board," Batra said.
While Nawazuddin`s character is something that Batra continued to develop and improvise even while shooting.
"This story for me is like an autorikshaw. It can`t function without the three wheels that are Irrfan, Nawaz and Nimrat.
Nawaz plays the character of Sheikh. He is the new person in Irrfan`s office and over the course of the story they develop and father-son like relationship.
"While Nimrat, who has done a lot of theatre in Mumbai, worked on building her character six months before we started shooting the movie," he said.
Batra is hoping that the film will release in India by the end of this year. The director, meanwhile, wants to spend some time with his young daughter before embarking on his next project.
"My next project is titled `Photograph`, it is a love story set in Bombay. `Lunchbox` is not a love story. It is about two people who finally find the courage to try a love story. I will be writing `Photograph` for a while."