There are few things as effortlessly satisfying as a good, home cooked meal. Yet, in this speed obsessed age, we rarely have the time to experience the love and tenderness that goes into making it. This reviewer went to watch The Lunchbox expecting a slightly offbeat Bollywood movie, and was totally unprepared for the joy that a wrongly delivered, but lovingly prepared parcel of lunch brings into the lives of two lonely people.
The movie opens with our first sighting of Ila, played with aplomb by Nimrat Kaur. A housewife and mother, Ila’s day revolves around cooking for her family, taking care of her house and talking through an open window with Auntyji, her faceless but supremely generous neighbour. She prepares a gloriously colourful meal of sumptuous vegetables and packs the steel tiffin box which she hands over to the dabbawala. The tiffin is not just a meal for her husband, but Ila’s hopes of injecting some magic into a relationship that is almost like two strangers living under a roof.
The lunchbox lands the desk of Saajan Fernandez. Widowed, humorless and about to retire, there seems to be no cheer in Sajan’s life. The lunchbox changes it all. Delighted by this quirk of fate, Saajan leaves not a speck of food in the box and sends it back. At home in the evening, Ila realizes there has been a mixup when her husband, who ends up with a box of nondescript aloo gobi, barely acknowledges her. Ila sends a note of gratitude to Saajan and his bland, three sentence long reply leaves her nonplussed. Thus begins an exchange between two lonely souls who are tied to each other by the slightest of chances.
Irrfan Khan’s Saajan blossoms from a lonely, solitary figure into one that begins to appreciate all that life has given him. He makes a friend out of Aslam (Nawazuddin Siddique) and slowly comes back to life. Nimrat Kaur’s Ila bubbles with energy, eagerly waiting for the next letter from Saajan and chirping along with Auntyji about her day and what reply to send to Saajan. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a small role but brings much of the levity the movie has.
If you have been waiting for a movie that warms you and leaves you with a memory of something genuinely happy, the The Lunchbox is just the movie you’ve been waiting for. We’ll be rooting for this to be India’s official entry to the Oscars.