What a lush and luscious film The Lunchbox is. In this 2013 import from India, neglected wife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) tries to inject romance back into her marriage by preparing an elaborate lunch for her husband that the dabbawala messenger system will deliver to his office. This complex system employs men to bring meals from households and restaurants to office workers, moving 200,000 meals a day in Mumbai.
While the real dabbawala system is world-famous for rarely making an error, the premise of the The Lunchbox is that it does, delivering Ila’s carefully made meal to lonely accountant Saajan (Irrfan Khan). Saajan simply thinks his restaurant order has improved in quality, but Ila, questioning her husband, realizes that the meal ended up with the wrong person. She sends a note with the next lunch, and a correspondence blossoms between Ila and Saajan.
Kaur and Khan give restrained, yet wonderfully sympathetic, performances. And even though I would probably burn off the roof of my mouth eating some of those highly spiced dishes, the food throughout the film looked so yummy I wanted all my meals stacked in tin cylinders.
For someone like me who has never visited India, let alone lived there, life in the city was a revelation: dabbawalas delivering lunches to workers’ desks, Ila calling out her window to “Auntie” upstairs for cooking advice, the two women passing ingredients back and forth in a basket on a rope.
While The Lunchbox is an Indian film, it is not a Bollywood production of songs and twirling dancers. Instead, it’s a timeless story for anyone who loves letters, food or a change of pace from the standard run of films.
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