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Friendship Day 2023

Of friendships that were not meant to be

From ‘The Book Thief’ to ‘The Lunchbox’, here’s a list of gems from movies and literature that celebrate unexpected friendships

Udita Chakraborty | Published 06.08.23, 05:37 PM


True prosperity in life is often not measured in terms of the wealth one owns, but by the strength of one’s friendships. This International Friendship Day, My Kolkata takes a look at some unlikely friendships portrayed in books and movies that have moved us over the years. Here are some of our favourite portrayals that defy norms and remind us that friendships can be found and created in the most unexpected of places and ways.


‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee


Over the course of six decades, since its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has given its readers lessons in compassion and empathy. A book that explores racism and the seamy side of the American South – it succeeds in the portrayal of an unconventional friendship between the protagonist, Scout Finch and the recluse, Arthur (Boo) Radley. In the beginning of the novel, Scout and her brother Jem’s perception of Boo is informed by the biases that the inhabitants of Maycomb have about him. The children, terrified of the elusive figure of Boo, find it easier to write him off as a monster than to understand Boo’s predicament. But through the course of the novel the siblings realise that Boo is not the freak that they had thought him to be but rather a gentle, affectionate person who is just as eager to befriend them as they are to understand their mysterious neighbour.

‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak

Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger narrated by the omniscient character of Death. The story begins with Liesel’s mother dropping her off with her new foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann after the death of her brother. With her father persecuted by the Nazis for being a Communist and her mother absent, Liesel tries to recover some semblance of security with her new parents and her best friend, Rudy. But her life changes when she befriends Max, the Jew who the Hubermann’s hide in their basement. As Liesel’s life goes through several upheavals, it is her friendship with Max which withstands the test of time.

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini


This story unfolds in the politically volatile Afghanistan of the 1950s where Mariam is married off to the much older, acrimonious Rasheed who is verbally and physically abusive. Laila, a second wife that Rasheed takes in, initially becomes the object of Mariam’s envy and hatred. But soon Mariam realises that it is the conservative and oppressive Rasheed who is at the helm of ruining not just her life but also the lives of Laila and her daughter Aziza. Mariam befriends Laila and both women attempt to reclaim their power from their husband. Even though they succeed at doing so and Laila finds her happy ending, Mariam’s story ends with her making the ultimate sacrifice to save her friend’s life. A book not meant for the faint-hearted, A Thousand Splendid Suns traces the lives of Mariam and Laila as they forge an unbreakable bond despite their trying circumstances.

‘Kabuliwala’ by Rabindranath Tagore

Another tale with its protagonist hailing from the distant mountains of Afghanistan, is Tagore’s masterpiece, Kabuliwala. A story chronicling the unlikely friendship between a kabuliwala (hawker from Kabul) and Mini (a five-year-old girl), it reminds us that a father is often a daughter’s dearest friend.

‘The Last Leaf’ by O.Henry

The image of Old Behrman painting the last leaf on a cold, wintry, night has lived in the hearts of the admirers of O.Henry’s craft. The story begins with two artists – a younger Johnsy and an older Behrman, both yet to paint their masterpieces. By the end of the story Behrman manages to paint his masterpiece – the last leaf outside Johnsy's window but never lives to see it save Johnsy's life who survives to paint hers.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The movie, based on the book of the same name by John Boyne and directed by Mark Herman, depicts the story of two boys in Nazi Germany who strike up an unusual friendship. While Shmuel is a Jew taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, Bruno is the son of the Nazi commandant of Auschwitz. They develop a friendship from the opposite sides of the barbed wire fence of the concentration camp which ultimately has devastating consequences for the both of them.

A Man Called Otto

Released in 2022 and directed by Marc Forster, A Man Called Otto is a remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove based on the book by Fredrik Beckman. With Tom Hanks and Mariana Trevino playing Otto and Marisol respectively, the film portrays how a friend can be the elixir that gives one a new lease of life.

Life of Pi

A visually stunning masterpiece, Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee, explores the themes of nature, religion, storytelling and truth through the incredible story of Piscine Molitor Patel’s survival on a lifeboat adrift at sea with a Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker. The movie which is based on the widely popular book by the Canadian author Yann Martel, among its other messages, highlights the need for befriending nature in order to survive.

The Lunchbox

In the hustle and bustle of the city of dreams, a lunchbox meant for an emotionally distant husband is delivered to another man, that too older widower, who is on verge of retirement but offers the friendship that the husband never could. Some call it sheer coincidence and some, divine intervention. Directed and written by Ritesh Batra, the film follows the story of Ila (played by Nimrat Kaur), a young housewife in Mumbai who is stuck in a lonely marriage and Saajan Fernandes (played by Irrfan Khan) a widower and accountant about to retire, as they strike up a friendship through carefully written notes to each other as Mumbai’s dabbawala delivery system mixes up Ila’s well intended meals for her husband.

Chillar Party

A cult favourite of children growing up in the 2000s, Chillar Party is a movie which beautifully captures how children would often ignore societal boundaries and befriend those who are pure hearted. Taking on the intimidating world of adults, eight children of Chandan Nagar colony in Mumbai, fight tooth and nail to save Fatka’s (an orphan that they become friends with) dog, Bhidu from a scheming politician. Written and directed by Nitesh Tiwari and Vikas Bahl, the film shows the power of friendship and the innocence that drives children to stand up even for their furry friends.

Last updated on 06.08.23, 10:22 PM

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