The Lunchbox is my favourite love story of the year. It’s sweet, sad and deeply aching. Debutant director Ritesh Batra captures the harrowing loneliness that a metropolis like Mumbai fosters, the hope of happiness that glimmers and enables us to go on.
Direction: Ritesh Batra
Actors: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
The Lunchbox is about two desolate individuals who make a tenuous connection when the famed Mumbai dabbawallas mess up and deliver lunch to the wrong man. Saajan, played by Irrfan Khan, is a widower on the verge of retirement.
Ila, played by Nimrat Kaur, is a housewife, frayed by neglect. Their relationship – expressed entirely through notes exchanged in the lunchbox – develops into love. Every detail in this lovely film speaks of the care with which it has been crafted. So, as Ila does the household laundry, she listens to recipes of paneer do pyaaza on the radio.
Saajan, who is Catholic, writes to her that he has been offered a vertical burial plot – “I’ve spent my life standing in trains and buses,” he says, “now I will have to stand even when I’m dead.” The writing is enhanced by terrific performances. This film is a triumph for all its leads – Irrfan, Nimrat and Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is endearing as Saajan’s junior.
Irrfan, who also co-produced the film, is its backbone. His gait, eyes, even his slight smile, captures Saajan’s melancholy. Irrfan and Nawaz are two of the finest actors working today but this film wouldn’t be what it is without Nimrat’s heartbreaking performance. The Lunchbox is poignant and powerful. It will make you laugh and cry. And it will also make you hungry – I was dying to eat paneer kofta and bhindi when it finished.
I absolutely insist that you see it.