on 21 September 2014
“The Lunchbox” is just what I needed. It’s a movie that not only restores my faith in the genre of feel-good dramas, but it reinforces the fact that something simple isn’t always a bad thing (and can actually be pretty powerful). From the cinematography to the acting, I can’t complain, and that’s pretty rare. But somehow, the ingredients that make up this delightful little movie never falter. There wasn’t a moment that I would’ve changed, especially when it comes to the original way our two main characters meet.
Their sweet relationship begins due to a mistake in Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery system. Ila, a young housewife, takes up the task of making her husband’s lunch each day and unexpectedly, it’s not getting to him. She spends hours and hours making a wonderful feast but it ends up going to Saajan, a widowed man who works in an office, by accident. She decides to send him a note in the lunchbox one day and they begin communicating back and forth, turning a simple mishap into something beautiful.
And honestly, it’s one of the most sincere films I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t feel the need to be in any way grandiose, keeping a quiet and reserved tone throughout (with some comedy sprinkled in at the perfect moments). Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur (who play Saajan and Ila) are absolutely superb, playing off of each other perfectly in every scene.
And what’s even more miraculous is that all of this is coming from a first-time director. It has the style and confidence of a film made by someone with years of experience, and I have to commend Ritesh Batra on his outstanding work. It would be a crime if this doesn’t receive a nomination for ‘best foreign-language film’ at the Oscar’s this year.
I had not heard of Mumbai's labour intensive dabbawallah system for delivering to men at work the lunch boxes often prepared by their loving wives, but a recent trip to India had made me aware of the noisy, polluted, gridlocked chaos of its urban streets. In this tale, lonely housewife Ila finds that her delicious lunches, intended to rekindle the ardour of her neglectful, workaholic husband, are somehow reaching the desk of an equally lonely insurance claims clerk on the brink of retirement. Their ensuing correspondence, made more frank and poignant by the fact that they have never met, explores both the pathos and the potential simple joys of daily life. In the process, we see and learn a good deal about life in modern India, which, beneath the film's many comical moments seems rather sad: men grow old strap-hanging to work on overcrowded public transport, and those in work seem to have to work too hard for relatively little. Are such pleasures as mouth-watering food and colourful wedding celebrations enough to compensate for this?
Some of the plotting is a little unconvincing, but the impression of Indian life is authentic. Ritesh Batra, the director, was wise to steer clear of Bollywood romance in favour of a slower paced, lower key but moving and thoughtful film, which despite moments of sadness leaves the audience feeling positive.
Ritesh Batra’s debut ’The Lunchbox’ is a delightful film set in Mumbai, India. Saajan (Irrfan Khan) is a grieving widower who is counting down the days before his retirement as a government pen-pusher. His favourite time of day is when he receives his lunchtime lunchbox, courtesy of the legendary Dabbawala service which delivers millions of lunch boxes every day.
One day, the food delivered is far superior to the food he normally receives. It turns out that this delicious lunchbox was made by a bored housewife called Ila (Nimrat Kaur), who is trying to win back her disinterested husband. When they both realise whats happened, they strike up an unlikely relationship through letters. Initially venting the frustrations in their lives, the letters become increasingly personal and they decide to meet.
Batra explores this friendship through these letters, unearthing the insecurities in both characters, especially Saajans alienation from life since his wife’s death. They both use these letters to expose their failings, and perhaps to demystify them too. The letters help to engage and disengage themselves from each other, allowing them to make life-changing decisions which they may not have been able to do otherwise.
Saajan also unravels a fondness for the person who will eventually take over his job, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). His pained demeanour hides for the most part his sadness, with Shaikh and Ila aiding his rehabilitation back to some sort of normality. Some great performances are led by Irrfan Khan, giving yet another excellent character study. ’The Lunchbox’ is a delicate, charming drama showing the positive effects food can have on people, and how anyone of any age has something to offer others in those moments of lonliness. In these fast-paced times, these simplest of pleasures still provide the most nourishment.
on 8 April 2014
"The Lunchbox" (2013 release from India; 105 min.) brings the story of Ila, a house wife stuck in an unhappy marriage. She makes her husband's lunch meal every day, and it gets delivered through Mumbai's famous dabbawalla (an intricate delivery systems). Somehow a mistake is made and the lunchbox is delivered not to her husband, but to Saajan, a widower. Soon Saajan and Ila start communicating back-and-forth through handwritten notes left in the lunch box. Then Ila finds out that her husband is having an affair. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the feature debut of writer-director Ritesh Batra, and what a debut he gives us! Second, the film addresses many different themes in fine fashion, including of course what constitutes true love but also true happiness. At one point Ila writes to Saajan that she wants to move to Bhutan, "because they don't have Gross Domestic Product, but Gross National Happiness, and people are always happy there". There are several parallel secondary stories in the movie, including Saajan being asked to train a newcomer at work, and also Ila's family, with aunts and uncles, and the responsibilities of taking care of older parents. Third, the film, shot on location in Mumbai, gives a glimpse of what life is like there. I haven't had a chance to visit it yet, but would very much would like to at some point. Fourth, the acting performances, in particular from the 2 leads (the beautiful Nimrat Kaur as Ila and Irfan Khan as Saajan) are outstanding. Last but not least, there is a nice soundtrack, composed by veteran UK film composer Max Richter.
"The Lunchbox" opened this weekend at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati, and the matinee screening I saw this at was PACKED I am happy to say. "The Lunchbox" has all the makings of a very solid hit on the art-house theater circuit. I read somewhere that the production budget for this was less than $2 million, proving once again you don't need $100 million or a comic book super hero to make a compelling movie. If you are in the mood for something that is light years away from your standard Hollywood fare (or even Bollywood, for that matter), you will be in for a treat. "The Lunchbox" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
on 17 July 2014
Watched this on a flight back to the UK, delightful film. And a wonderful insight into Indian culture at the same time.
No it isn't dazzling or spectacular but it is different and that is what makes it an interesting film.
It is all about how a lady who is in an unhappy marriage and who prepares who husbands lunch every day ends up communicating with someone she has never met via notes in the lunch tins that have been mixed up.
Full of 'will they' 'won't they' plus the development of the relationship of the man with the young man who is due to take over his job when he retires.
on 6 January 2015
Ila (Nimrat) is a 23 year old housewife and mother, who is trying to rekindle her husband’s love and the only way she knows how is by her cooking, which is sensational. However, her delicious lunch gets delivered to office worker Saigan Fernandez, (Irrfan), by mistake – a man in his late forties, who has been grieving since his wife died.
Of course, the lunch that SHOULD go to Saigan is actually going to Ila’s husband, who starts to question her regular inclusion of cauliflower, which is unusual. When Ila realises her mistake, she writes a note of apology to Saigan and includes it with the next delivery. This leads to a series of fortunate and unfortunate notes which makes this into a beautiful and soft romantic drama.
Her marriage is deteriorating into a matter of convenience, and the notes become a highlight of her day, even though she knows very little about Saigan and has never met him. The crunch comes when, as Ila is filling the washing machine, she detects a perfume on her husband’s shirts, which is obviously not hers. She decides to take action to deal with her husband’s infidelity.
Both Ila and Saigan develop feelings for each other, which are played out to an unusual conclusion, leaving the viewer wondering…..will they or won’t they?
From a country not renowned for dramas, this is a wonderful and touching love story. Can two people fall in love without ever meeting? You be the judge.
on 23 March 2016
A well done and well-acted movie. (Possible slight spoiler in this review). To me this would be the Bollywood version of an Indi movie. Thought the movie is very well acted it does move very slowly. Also what let this movie down for me was the ending. I am one those people who like the ending tie everything up, these open ended ending that appeal to the more artistic types where viewers speculate what happened just strike me as lazy or unfinished. If it was not for this ending I would definitely have given this movie 4 star.
Irrfan Khan plays Saajan Fernandez a lonely widower, with no connection to his co-worker or neighbours. He keeps himself emotionally distant. His life is very repetitive go to work on the train, come home tell off the neighbours’' kids, watch them eat as a family, and then make his own food and repeat. Just weeks away from retirement he meets Shaikh (Nawasuddin Saddiqui) his younger replacement who he has been asked to train before he leaves.
In another part of Mumbai Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is trying to inject (literally) some spice into her emotionally distant husband by cooking delicious food which is delivered to him at work by the Mumbai Dabawalla (lunchbox delivery system). Ignored by her husband and her only friend being the aunty living upstairs who helps her with her recopies and using the philosophy that the way a man’s heart is through his stomach. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it in a rare mistake her lunchbox is delivered to Saajan.
After realising the mistake, and taking the completely empty lunchbox as a sign of enjoyment of the food, Ila and Saajan start communicating through letter. As their relationship grows they both discover that they want and deserve more out of life. I would have rated this movie good if the loose ends had been tied up or if the pace was a bit faster. If you are into the more artistic movies you will probably appreciate this much more than I did.
Good hearted and well told, subtle 'dramaedy' about the on-paper relationship between a lonely, ignored housewife, and a grumpy older insurance case-worker who starts getting the lunchboxes meant for the woman's husband.
The two soon start writing letters back and forth, which are carried in the filled and emptied lunchbox, and an odd friendship develops. At the same time, the self-isolated insurance worker (Irrfan Kahn in a lovely, understated performance) starts to reluctantly form a friendship with an ambitious, poor young man who has been hired to replace him when he retires. There have been films using the gimmick of two leads having a non face to face relationship before (e.g. 'You've Got Mail'), but this is both quirkier and more low key. The focus is less on romance, and more on these two lonely souls simply getting to know each other, and to tell their stories to someone in a world where no one seems to care.
Nimrat Kaur does a terrific job as the lonesome housewife, as does Nawazuddin Siddlqui as the orphaned worker slowly taken under the wing of his older counterpart.
This isn't a film that will make you laugh out loud, or reduce you to tears. But under the excellent direction of first timer Ritesh Batra, this Indian "indie" film will touch your heart and make you smile as you slowly get to know these sad, sometimes foolish, often wise, and always very human characters.
on 10 May 2015
This film has all the qualities of a good, well produced film with a professional script. The emotion arousing plot is thought provoking. While the ending is left a little loose, (not a detailed spoiler I hope), I can understand/forgive that, given the Indian culture is prohibitive of a lot of things. The acting is superb. Despite having no superhero/fast type of action, it is very close to life/reality, which is tough enough, and the viewer soon becomes aware of that. Fate often throws difficult scenarios/issues for us to cope with and the choices left to normal Joe/Jane Blogg's is what this film is about. If you like to laugh, feast your eyes on colour, have your tongue tingle at the thought of great food, then this is for you. How else can one praise it?
on 9 June 2015
A beautiful, quiet film that explores the secrets of the human heart - through food, oh and a few letters, that said so much by saying very little at all. A very cleverly written film with wonderful characters and an ending that will drive you mad!