Director: Kanwal Sethi
Cast: Neeraj Kabi, Shefali Shah, Priyanshu Painyuli, Rasika Dugal, Bidita Bag
Once Again , which is streaming on Netflix, has pretty much the same premise as The Lunchbox: Two lonely souls in Mumbai, unlikely to meet otherwise, find each other through a tiffin service, and continue to correspond without meeting. Nimrat Kaur’s middle class housewife Ila who lives in a cooperative housing society might not have met the older Saajan Fernandes, played by Irrfan, a creature of the city’s East-Indian neighbourhoods, were it not for a glitch in the dabba service, famed for its efficiency. In Once Again, Neeraj Kabi plays Amar, a famous actor who is divorced, while Shefali Shah is Tara, a widow who runs a no-frills Mangalorean restaurant in Bandra. Amar has a daughter (Rasika Dugal), Tara has a daughter (Bidita Bag) and a son (Priyanshu Painyuli).
While The Lunchbox shows us how they fall in love, how they carry out their relationship over letters slipped into the dabba, and ends with the first time they decide to meet, when Once Again begins, Amar and Tara have already found each other. They only speak on phone; Amar is more insistent about them meeting, because unlike her, he doesn’t have a face to the person he is in love with—he is a famous actor, remember? Their conversations are peppered with film talk, like Tara being encouraging about him pulling off him dance sequence on screen, or pulling his leg about how she can’t picture him playing a villain.
But Once Again is more interested in what happens after they meet, which they do around 30 minutes into the film. What are the consequences of a popular actor being seen with his clandestine lover in public? How is it going affect Tara’s son’s wedding, for which she has been struggling to get a loan? How will it hurt Amar’s image and career? At this point, I found myself losing interest in Amar and Tara whereas on paper, the film becomes more eventful and dramatic. How this happens despite two solid, under-exposed actors at work, I am still figuring out.
What I enjoyed were some small moments. Whether it is Tara trying to perfect a song by repeating a line as she and Amar sit at Marine Drive at night. Or the scene where she crushes coriander leaves in her hand, smells it, and lets Amar do the same. Director Kanwal Sethi has a keen eye for detail. The kitchen of Tara’s family-run restaurant looks refreshingly different from the kind of squeaky clean, ultra-equipped kitchen we are used to seeing in movies showing the workings of a restaurant. As the main plot takes its own course, we see Tara doing things like marinading the fish in masala, wrapping it in banana leaf and placing it in the clay oven. I could’ve had some more of that.
Once Again will also release in select theatres through the screening-on-demand service 1018mb
Watch the trailer here: