Among the slew of modern movies churned out over the past few years, The Lunchbox comes off as surprisingly delighting without any of the bells and whistles the aforementioned movies had. Its a simple tale of an old-school romance between an Indian housewife and an accountant way into his 50/60s that touches on the more simple things in life.
The elementary events unravels in modern day Mumbai, sequined with constant nostalgia from its initial scene and adorned with a pinch of comedy in almost every frame topped off with a whole lot of emotions from start to end, The Lunchbox is a breath of fresh air. Things get interesting when a dabba (tiffinbox) from a housewife, Ila, gets misdelivered to a grouchy accountant close to his retirement, Saajan Fernandez. From there on romance slowly blooms between the disregarded housewife and the widower, exchanged through letters in the dabba.
Debutant director and writer, Ritesh Batra weaves the story around two people connected by written letters and exchanged through tiffin boxes, instead of chat windows, text messages and emails that dominates the world now. It almost feels impossible but yet it somehow works. The subtle nuances of the characters played impeccably by Irfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur was felt throughout. Be it the grief and grumpiness of a widower, Saajan or of the heart broken and disturbed Ila when she finds out that her husband was losing interest in her, or the ample amount of comedy that comes from the ever-amazing Nawazuddin Siddiqui, The Lunchbox packs quite a punch when it comes to performances. And that even goes for the voice of Bharati Achrekar, the aunty upstairs who helps Ila out asking her in cooking delicious dabbas for her husband.
The story is well crafted and with utmost detail that makes it entertaining so much. What adds another layer to the narrative is that it doesn’t just revolve around the titular characters, rather it branches around their own rarely seen friends and family. I found the scene where Ila’s mom goes delusional after her father’s passing, particularly touching. The ending does come abrupt and leaves you in a perpetual state of ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could’s’. You are let to decide on your own about the outcome of this beautiful drama so don’t be surprised.
Despite the gray shades looming all over the scampering city of Mumbai, the cinematography looked amazing. And music, if not something to write home about, got along well with the visuals. The sound, but, on the other hand was just mind blowing. I don’t always notice the sound design in movies but this was one of the times where I had to take note of the intricately detailed sounds and as the dialogues and scenes overlapped it just couldn’t be ignored.
The Lunchbox is that rare gem among the big budget blockbusters and cheap cash cows that populates Bollywood these days. More than its refreshing take on romance dramas, it pushes you down the nostalgic spiral. I was able to connect immensely with the characters, the letters, the VHS/VCR combo and most of all, the mouth watering dabbas!
In an endnote I’d like to tell you all “Don’t go for the movie with an empty stomach, you will regret it!”