THE LUNCHBOX (2014) Irfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achreker, Nakul Vaid, Yashvi Puneet Nagar. Directed by Ritesh Batra
A delightful film set in Mumbai about a housewife named Ila (Nimrat Kaur) who is neglected by her husband when he gets home from work each day. She's heard the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so she starts cooking these extraordinary looking, delicious hot meals every morning for his lunch. The food is placed in metal canisters stacked on top of each other, interlocked, and then placed in a lunch tote bag for delivery to her husband's work. In Mumbai they use Dabbawallahs to deliver the food. These couriers pick up thousands of homemade meals each morning, usually on bicycle, and use various modes of transportation to deliver the lunchboxes to the husbands at the workplace in this city of 20 million people. They also return the empty lunchboxes to the wives in the afternoon usually before the husbands get home. It's fascinating to watch and generally efficient, but as luck would have it there's a mix up and Ila's food is delivered to the wrong man.
Irfan Khan (Life Of Pi) plays Saajan Fernandes, a claims adjuster who's about to retire after 30 years on the job. His wife passed away years ago and so he's signed up for a generic lunchbox delivery from a restaurant near his home. By mistake he receives Ila's lunchbox and he devours every morsel. When she gets it back completely empty she is confident that her husband will compliment her on the food and when he arrives home and that doesn't happen, Ila comes to the conclusion that the lunchbox went to the wrong man, but since he ate everything she gets up the next morning and cooks another exquisite meal but includes a note in the container. Saajan writes back and the two begin a daily ritual. The notes start to become more personal and Ila begins to suspect that her husband is cheating on her. They start to offer each other advice and at some point realize that they are falling in love.
Nimrat Kaur is a natural beauty and very charming in the film. She, like her co-star Irfan Kahn, manages to convey her emotions and feelings without even saying a line. You can feel the emptiness in both character's lives as well as a sense of anticipation and happiness just by their facial expressions. Kahn, already one of the biggest stars in India (you may remember him in "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Life Of Pi"), should become a much bigger star in the United States, he is such a talented actor. Director Ritesh Batra, an NYU graduate and Sundance participant, manages to combine romance with the daily lives of the people in his hometown, and the result is a splendid film that makes you appreciate the value of a relationship. There is a line in the movie that serves as the moral of the film, "Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station".
*Now showing at the River Oaks Theater (Houston), Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro (San Antonio), Arbor 8 Cinema @ Great Hills (Austin).
reviewed April 22, 2014
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