The politics of the bento (lunch box) are embedded in the Japanese DNA and most of us have an ingrained sense of the power play brewing inside one’s lunch. Which is why “Stanley Ka Dabba” (international title: “Stanley’s Tiffin Box”) will strike a chord.”Stanley Ka Dabba” hails from Bollywood, but it’s that rare type of Indian cinema not populated by dancers and singers letting it rip in Hindi. Rather, “Stanley” has the look and feel of an Abbas Kiarostami film — gentle on the senses and generous with insight. The titular protagonist is played by 10-year-old Partho Gupte, and he slips effortlessly into the role of the charismatic and hugely popular Stanley.
At school Stanley reigns, but only until lunchtime, when all the other kids open their four-tiered tiffin (lunch) boxes and he, empty-handed, gobbles tap water in the restroom. His classmates want to share, but the bullying Hindi teacher (played by the director Amole Gupte) won’t let them and picks food off everyone’s tiffin boxes himself.
The film addresses many things, but the strongest takeaway is that the global population continues to grow and no one really knows how to fix the ever-diminishing food-supply problem. Never mind the politics, the lunch box could well become the ultimate item of extravagance. (K.S.)