Movie Reviews

‘The Lunch Box’: A delectable love story

By Anjali RaguramanMovies - 27 March 2014 2:53 PM | Updated 2:53 PM

‘The Lunch Box’: A delectable love story

Our Rating

4/5 Stars

In the sprawling metropolis of Mumbai, India, two desolate strangers become inextricably linked by a misdelivered lunchbox: Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a middle-class wife, neglected by her husband but desperately trying to salvage the marriage though packed lunches, and Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a widower on the brink of retirement.

Ila’s meal for her husband is mistakenly sent to Saajan’s desk via the famed Mumbai dabbawallas (lunchbox delivery men) who, every morning, deliver thousands of freshly cooked meals by Indian housewives straight to their husbands’ office desks. They rarely mix up deliveries. (In 2010, the Harvard Business School conducted a case study proving that less than one out of every million deliveries goes amiss).

FOOD THAT FORGES A RELATIONSHIP

‘The Lunch Box’ hinges on the simple premise of the one-in-a-million chance that the lunch delivery goes wrong.

Realising the mistake, Ila writes Saajan a note and unexpectedly begins a correspondence with a man she has never met. A love story blossoms, connecting two lonely people via handwritten notes exchanged through the lunchbox deliveries.

One is reminded of the simplicity and the beauty of a handwritten note, as the film also oscillates between being funny and sad, ever so subtly.

A HUMAN CONNECTION

The film's strength lies in its characters who are ordinary people, played with quiet subtlety by a stellar cast. Nimrat Kaur (‘Peddlers’) as Ila personifies a dutiful but unsatisfied wife. Skilled in the kitchen, she seeks advice from “aunty”, the neighbour upstairs (who makes an appearance only via a disembodied voice), who dishes out advice on recipes and so much more. Delicious-looking food, made lovingly and packed every morning, is an expression of Ila’s love and dedication.

Nimrat Kaur plays a lonely housewife

Her sweet but sad performance is matched by the inimitable Irrfan Khan, a familiar face to international audiences having appeared in films such as ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-man’. A grump, his daily routine is to work and then go home for a lonely dinner, but he goes through a transformative journey as he learns to love again.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (‘Gangs of Wasseypur’) in a supporting role as Saajan's nosy co-worker, provides a wonderful foil to Saajan's sullen demeanour. 

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (second from right) as Shaikh and Irrfan Khan (right) as Saajan

First-time writer and director Ritesh Batra does a wonderful job weaving in scenes that speak of the magic of the connection between Ila and Saajan. There may be lean dialogue throughout the film but so much more non-verbal messages are conveyed as well.

The film’s ambiguous ending allows viewers to make up their own minds about how this story will play out. And you would probably want to chew on that after the show. After all the sumptuous shots of bindi masala (spiced okra) and paneer do pyaza (cottage cheese with deep fried onions), you will be left ravenous by the end of the film.

'The Lunch Box' is now showing in cinemas. 

Movie Photos

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The Lunch Box