The story of this film is a no-brainer. Someone’s lunch box gets delivered to someone else and eventually sets off a love story, of two people who never met. Exchanging notes simply seems like technology that pre-dated stories of chat room friends eventually in love like ‘You’ve got mail’ which came at the turn of the century. But the simplicity in its storytelling makes it effective and worthwhile.
Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a housewife juggling tasks, like preparing her kid for school, cooking up lunch for her husband before the dabbawala arrives and chatting up with an old lady in the neighborhood who share stuff over a basket that is passed on between their homes. On the other hand is a widower Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan), who works in an insurance company and is on the verge of retirement. After a good day at office, his only pastime is to smoke cigarettes in the balcony of his old Bandra home.
Irrfan Khan is a phenomenally talented actor and he delivers yet another gem. However, despite all the make-up he looks too young to convincingly play a guy approaching sixty. Nawazuddin Siddiqui does a great job in a supporting role, delivering the witty lines with precision. Nimrat Kaur, who can be seen in the recent Dairy Milk Silk Commercial, seems like an apt choice for the role she played.
There are elements of lazy writing that the writer-director Ritesh Batra has chosen when one of the lead characters is looking for an outlet to convey her thoughts to the audience. Ila then communicates with a neighborhood Aunty (Bharati Acherekar) who is never seen on screen. Both these ladies seem to discuss everything that happens with each other the whole day. After a while, when you hear Nimrat Kaur’s character say ‘aunty’ for the umpteenth time, you would burst into laughter.
Although the film, at times, seems slow-moving, one must give it a benefit of doubt because it wouldn’t have been possible to display loneliness and to use quiet to portray disquiet in the characters’ lives, each of whom has lost his soul running the hamster’s wheel in Mumbai. Had its pace been any faster, the film would have lost all charm and would have been a soulless 45 minute film instead.
Its essence is mostly that of a short story told on the big screen. It brings forth questions such as: Would you fall in love with someone you never met? And also breaking the barriers of age and how the society would look at it. Or rather, is love a mere form of escape from stark realities, such as that of a bored housewife and an aged widower who both have issues as to how life turned about to be for them?
Verdict: If you are the kinds who likes movies made about common folk, tales of love and hope amidst the loneliness drowned by the din of the city that never sleeps, this movie is for you. Nonetheless, don’t expect the film to be a perfect ten on the scoreboard either. ‘The Lunchbox’ is worth watching.
Rating 7/10: Simple story, elegantly told