Dir. Ritesh Batra, 2013
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” The Lunchbox proves this wrong, arguing that the purest love is in fact love through food. It’s a romance that wouldn’t look out of place in an eighteenth-century novel, a Jane Austen story transplanted to urban India. It’s one of those films that holds your hand, gives you a hug and tells you everything will work out in the end.
Simultaneously melancholy and droll, Ritesh Batra’s romance revolves around two lovelorn people lost in Mumbai’s crush of humanity. Their first contact comes after an incredibly rare mistake in the dabbawala system, in which home-cooked meals are delivered to family members at work.
Nimrat Kaur’s Ila is the epitome of talent wasted. After consulting with her curmudgeonly food “guru” Auntie (who, like many elderly sitcom characters, we never see), she concocts lavish meals for her tepid, uncaring and adulterous husband. However, they are delivered to the sardonic Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), an office-working widower close to retirement. This “will-they-won’t-they” odd couple then begin a therapeutic correspondence through hidden notes, much to the delight of the child-like Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).
Marinated with a very Indian style of lust, the action is slow and thoughtful. But The Lunchbox is far from boring, with its two leads capturing the pure angst of being alone in a teeming metropolis. The piece won’t draw a visceral reaction such as anger or uncontrollable weeping, but it will make you smile – one that will last for days afterwards.
WORDS: MAX FIGGETT