Oh to be an office worker in Mumbai. No soggy, over-priced lunchtime sandwich for them. Instead, they receive fresh, home-cooked meals delivered from kitchen to desktop every day by the legendary Dabbawallahs. Their infinitely complex system of transporting thousands upon thousands of tiffin boxes all across the city famously Never. Goes. Wrong. The Lunchbox explores what might happen if it did.
Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is married to Rajeev (Nakul Vaid) but the spark has gone. Rajeev works long hours and spends home time glued to his phone. Surmising the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Ila decides to cook up a storm for Rajeev’s lunchbox. But the box is erroneously delivered to accounts worker Saajan (Irrfan Khan), an introverted widower. Figuring out the mistake, lla sends a letter via the following day’s tiffin box to chastise the greedy so and so who happily noshed her husband’s lunch.
And so begins a correspondence between unseen strangers. Both lonely, Ila and Saajan find solace in the daily letters, soon confiding their innermost thoughts and feelings to each other. The older Saajan offers wisdom and advice to the younger Ila, who in turn gives him hope. Growing closer, they start questioning whether their relationship is turning into something more than just epistolary.
This is a beautiful film. Poignant, wistful and understated with perfectly realised characters, it’s emotional without ever being mawkish. It’s also marvellously funny in places, particularly the disembodied voice of ‘Auntie’, an eccentric neighbour who dispenses love life advice and cooking tips to Ila. But perhaps the biggest character is Mumbai itself, captured in all its hectic, rush hour chaos, deftly circumnavigated by the army of singing, clapping, head wagging Dabbawallahs. If you can’t take a trip to India anytime soon, The Lunchbox is the next best thing.
UK release 11 April 2014