The dabbawalas of Mumbai have shot to global fame, getting invited for the royal wedding and also giving guest lectures in some of the business schools in India. Now comes a film that tells the story of a gentle romance that blossoms in the swarming city of Mumbai between a young housewife and a middle-aged man. THE LUNCHBOX is a story of a beautiful relationship triggered by the wrong delivery of a lunchbox that’s delivered daily within the bustling metropolis of Mumbai.
A well-told old-fashioned romance, THE LUNCHBOX gracefully unknots the trials, tribulations, fears and hopes of everyday people sans the glamour that the city of Mumbai has become synonymous with. It also brings back memories of the days when people used to communicate through hand-written lettersâ€¦ and cell phones and emails were unheard of.
Ila [Nimrat Kaur], a young housewife, tries to gain the attention of her husband [Nakul Vaid] via the paraphrased route ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’. However, despite her exquisite culinary skills and of course, the aid and constant prodding by a voice from the ‘aunty’ upstairs, Ila desolately fails. However, all’s not lost as the meticulously cooked dabba lands on the table of an unknowing and seemingly normal Saajan [Irrfan Khan].
Later realizing the mistake when her husband returns home, Ila encloses a note for the new recipient. By this one-in-a-million mistake, the lives of two distinctly different individuals clash, leading to a romantic revival of familiarity through written correspondence in the age of emails.
As the conversations between the two prolong, the topic shifts from the basic food to that of their lives, letting each individual open up more about themselves. As the film progresses, Ila, a confused housewife, emerges a more confident woman who is ready to take a decision. As for Saajan, he metamorphoses from a gloomy, close-to-retirement government employee to that of a man searching for his long-lost soul mate.
Debutant director Ritesh Batra does a magnificent job of encapsulating the interminable restlessness of a city that is constantly on the go. While doing so, he expertly gives voice to the fears that constantly plague the minds of individuals though the exchange of hand-written letters, besides infusing that certain soul, warmth and compassion in the narrative. He also deserves kudos for choosing an unconventional plot, combining romance and food that’s sure to strike a chord with cineastes. In fact, it won’t be erroneous to state that the film’s strength lies in its simplistic plot and an unfussy screenplay, besides the striking performances of its principal actors.
Irrfan illustrates yet again that he’s one of the finest talents to come out of India. Just recall his body of work and you’d agree that he’s a volcano of talent that leaves you completely enthralled with noteworthy performances in film after film. The question is, is there something Irrfan can’t do? Nimrat is the find of the year, truly. To stand up to talents like Irrfan and Nawazuddin in a film and yet retain your individualistic identity is nothing short of an accomplishment. Nawazuddin is absolutely flawless, essaying his part with flair.
Denzil Smith, Bharti Achrekar [never seen but heard in the film], Nakul Vaid and Lillette Dubey add spice to their respective parts.
On the whole, THE LUNCHBOX is a standout film, a sumptuous treat that’s sure to be relished by connoisseurs of cinema. A film with a big heart, it makes you realize that you can unearth contentment and pleasure even if you board the wrong train. Easily one of the finest films to come out of India.