Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith
The Lunchbox is not your average love story. Sentimental, moving and affectionate are just a small assortment of the words to describe this heartwarming and clever story about two people who have only communicated through the preparation and enjoyment of a carefully prepared lunch.
Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a housewife living below her Aunty with her young daughter and husband, takes great care in preparing her husband’s lunch, hoping to not only spice up his midday meals, but also their woeful marriage. With the intention of arousing his taste buds with a new recipe, she creates a well-prepared lunchbox that will be delivered to his workplace via the city’s lunchbox delivery system that is famously regarded as mistake-free. The lunchbox is consequently distributed to the wrong individual by the dabbawala – translated as the lunchbox deliveryman – sparking an honest and affectionate relationship through notes tucked away in the lunchbox.
Saajan (Irrfan Khan), like Ila, is lonely and forlorn in his life. An unfriendly, grieving widower and a worn-out government office worker for thirty-five years on the verge of retirement, he is subtly surprised by the delicious meal he thought was from the local deli. The empty lunchbox is returned to Ila that afternoon. Elated that who she thought was her husband enjoyed his meal, she becomes confused when he returns home from work, aloof to her and disinterested in his lunch and the note that was supposed to be tucked inside.
Soon coming to the conclusion that the lunchboxes must have been mistakenly switched (even though the dabbawala firmly refutes that ever happening), the written, genuine messages commence between Saajan and Ila.
The two main characters in the film are revealed through the letters that are tucked inside the traveling lunchbox each day. When Ila or Saajan open the lunchbox and read their respective notes, confessions of longing, memories, regrets, rejuvenation, hope and small bouts of joy and laughter are unveiled.
Throughout the film we witness a day-in-the-life around Mumbai’s train stations, streets and homes: trains rolling past, children playing in the streets, families eating a late dinner together, and cyclists weaving in and out of traffic. These chaotic moments are the backdrop for the film’s themes of transformation and idealism. Each of the main characters has an eye on a future goal – from retirement to breaking away from solitude. We see both Ila and Saajan move away from their repetitive surroundings and toward one another spiritually.
This bittersweet and charming story of romance dabbed with comedy is a portrait of two sensitive people looking to move forward with their lives, wherever their hearts may take them. The Lunchbox is a film that feeds your cinematic appetite and warms your senses with masterfully emotional performances.