Review: The Lunchbox (2013)

Review by: Topo Sanchez
SCUM Rating: ★ ★  

Set against the backdrop of the mindbogglingly complex food delivery system in Mumbai, the story begins when a “dabbawallah” (food delivery man) sends a “dabba” (tiffin boxes) to the wrong recipient, and brings about an unexpected relationship.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is an unhappy stay-home mom who is fighting to peel her husband’s attention away from his work and mobile phone. Aided by a ‘voice from above’ – another stay-home neighbour living upstairs in this case, Ila pours her heart and soul into making the perfect lunch for her husband everyday, in the hopes of finding a way to his heart through his stomach.

On the other side of the city, Saajan (Irrfan Khan of Life of Pi fame) is a typical white collar worker and a solemn widower serving out his last days at work before retirement. Having been in the same accounting firm for the past 35 years, he now has to hand over his responsibilities to a young blood, the earnest but over-enthusiastic Shaikh.

That fateful day of the delivery mix-up, Saajan, thoroughly impressed by the culinary standards of his lunch, licks his plate clean and devours all the contents of the tiffin. At first glance, Ila thinks that her cooking has left a strong impression, but after talking to her ever-distracted husband, she realises that her hard work has been sent to the wrong person. But flattered by Saajan’s gesture, she decides to send out more food the next day, but with a thank-you note this time. Saajan replies with his own note. And so begins the unusual relationship between the two lonely souls.

Slowly, they start to share personal experiences, philosophical perspectives and ideas with each other anonymously, like in internet dating, but without the computers. Gradually, we see the transformation of the two lead characters – Saajan getting over the loss of his wife and learning to be happy again, Ila feeling empowered and finding a new sense of purpose in life.

Inevitably they decide to take it up a notch and propose to meet. But like all romantic comedy rollercoaster rides, the highs always come crashing down… before going up again, of course. In this case, Saajan becomes painfully conscious of the age difference between the two of them and decides to step away from the relationship. Ila tries to salvage the situation and drops by Saajan’s office, only to be informed by Shaikh that he has moved out of the city. Coupled with the additional burden of her father’s death and her husband’s affair, it all becomes too much to bear and Ila decides to start afresh and move to Bhutan with her daughter. Meanwhile, at the train station, Saajan is having second thoughts…

The Lunchbox is a wonderfully understated and simple movie that gently exposes common issues faced by today’s fast moving society – loss and loneliness. Special mention must go to the star of the show, Irrfan Khan. His subdued facial expressions and masterful body language conveys Saajan’s pain effortlessly and makes the audience feel for the character. I also like the fact that the film is peppered with subtle tongue-in-cheek comedic moments; like when the dabbawallah proudly reminds us that people from Harvard have studied their food delivery system and found no flaws with it, so there is no possibility for a wrong delivery.

This is a good film to watch with the family or your better half, and a refreshing change from all that excessive green screens and digital effects from Hollywood blockbusters.
Taste it for yourself!


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About The Author

As a child, Topo Sanchez filled his little head with the great mysteries of UFOs, Bigfoots and bearded women as bedtime stories. His first revelation came about while watching El Topo, when he realized that two freaks became normal if they combined. So he figured if three combined, they would be superheroes (hence the birth of SCUM). His first words to his mom were 'Klaatu Barada Nikto!'

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