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The Lunch Box – Worth a Watch

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Bharti Achrekar, Nakul Vaid
Director: Ritesh Batra

Essentially a love story, very uniquely conveyed via the omnipresent dabba-walas of Mumbai. The movie has the innocence of a bygone era and old world charm; imagine little hand-written notelets in the lunchbox every-day!
Irrfan Khan as ‘Saajan Fernandez’ is the reason why The Lunchbox, is such a pleasure. Nimrat Kaur as ‘Ila’ is perfect. Absolutely loved the very spunky but invisible ‘Aunty’, Bharti Achrekar. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as ‘Shaikh’ was icing on the cake.

Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandez, works in the Accounts Department of a Government office. His life is bland and lonely. Nimrat Kaur as Ila, is a housewife whose husband doesn’t give her any attention, even when he is home he prefers to spend more time on his mobile phone. Deserted by her husband, her kitchen friend keeps her diverted while she is cooking, a certain Deshpande aunty who lives above her flat and helps her prepare delicious meals. Throughout the film the cheerful voice of the neighbour is heard which adds colour to the movie.

With Ila’s efforts and aunty’s suggestions the tasty dabba leaves for her husband’s office but one mistake by the dabbawala and the lunch box reaches the boring table of Saajan Fernandez, which he enjoys but has no idea it’s reached him by mistake, which kicks off the beautiful love story between Ila and Saajan which only means exchanging letters.

The exchange of notes fulfils that desire. So it is understandable why Ila abruptly and without much of a preamble starts sharing details of her life with a complete stranger, forcing Saajan to open up and share his life with her as well. But this deep need and comfort in documenting and sharing our lives, this at once tenuous and profound bond between the two is completely undone when the film insists that there be a romance and that the two meet and have a future together.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui depicts the role of Aslam Sheikh, who will soon replace Saajan when he retires. Saajan is cold but it’s Aslam who is eager to learn and get a proper handover before Saajan quits. Gradually, Aslam breaks the ice with Saajan and then both are seen traveling and even eating together. To see both in the same frame is added pleasure for the audience.

Ritesh Batra lends the film an earthy feel with a lot of shots of the local train, the messy government office, Mumbai traffic, dabbawallas and more, which set the tone of the film. The honesty that Irrfan brings to Saajan’s character, the innocence that Nawaz brings to Aslam and each time Nimrat is on screen brings the audience closer to the emotions of the film.

It is Batra’s screenplay which has made up amazing moments straight out of the balcony’s view or across the office table or the person standing in front during your daily commute. The detailing without being explicit continues to tell a story, without the presence of much dialogues, high sound tracks or item numbers. The script is rather streamlined and plain but the attention to nuances such as the loneliness explained via a Mr. Fernandez by his balcony smoking, glaring at a family having dinner or the how the gradual development of friendship between Shaikh and Mr. Fernandez takes place and many such moments are what construe that this is good piece of cinema.

My only confusion over the logic of the plot of the story-line was about the mistake in the delivery of the lunch box each time. Though the Dabbawala community, which has been awarded a Six Sigma Certification, for their customer satisfaction have made the mistake by their wrong delivery. It’s perfectly fine that a mistake can happen even by the efficient Dabbawala. But consistently handing over tiffin to the wrong address to a wrong person for over a fortnight certainly is illogical.

What is even more hilarious is that, while the wrong guy gets the wrong tiffin, the tiffin meant for the wrong guy goes to another person, the husband, with the same consistency. This coincidence is mysterious. And what is indigestible is the fact that the husband who gets the wrong tiffin is not able to recognize his own tiffin. The service provider only ensures your tiffin reaches on time. How come the husband does not know the taste of his own home-cooked food and the color and type of his Lunch Box?

Despite the small defects in the story board, it certainly moves the audience emotionally and worth a watch. The lunchbox sits in the corner of the trolley as it is wheeled on the roads of Mumbai; the sun shines brightly on its green cover and its cloth handle flutters and dances in the wind. It is always said that the best films are made from truly simple stories and this stands true for this film, The Lunch Box. A unique and silent romantic story with Indian flavors in it. At the end of the movie, the audience are left with a sensitive yet serious question about the institution of “Marriage” and its future in our society.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

P.S: I know this is a delayed review. Yet, better late than never. 🙂 Thanks to Prasanna Kumar who accompanied me to watch this movie.

3 Comments

  • S Saravanan

    Nice review . But regarding the defects in the storyboard that you had pointed out, first of all Dabawallas don’t have any six sigma certification and that i said just for a fact. Even if they were still I would imagine it is well within the cinematic liberty of the director to assume they would commit a mistake and then repeat it over a fortnight. And if they have once delivered to a wrong office it is more likely they they will repeat the same. Regarding the husband not recognizing his box or food well the lunchboxes can very much be similar dabbas and moreover it is amply clear that the relationship between him and his wife is on the rocks and that he hardly cares about her . So I would hail this premise as a wonderfully creative springboard used by the director to present a beautiful story of romance and aroma not a logical flaw.

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