© NFP/Filmwelt

The Lunchbox
India/France/Germany/U.S.A. 2013

Opening 21 Nov 2013

Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Writing credits: Ritesh Batra, Rutvik Oza
Principal actors: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar

“Sometimes the wrong train goes to the right station.” This goes for lunchboxes as well. Ila (beautiful Nimrat Kaur) makes five-course meals for her husband, divides them into a stack of lunchboxes and waits for the Dabbawalla to pick it all up to deliver to her husband in his office. One day the lunchbox mistakenly lands on the desk of Saajan. To clarify the situation Ila and Saajan begin to write notes to each other and slowly they share portions of their lives. Ila is a dutiful housewife with a small daughter and suffers from lack of attention because her husband is having an affair. Saajan is a widower with one month until retirement; he must cope with his successor, Shaikh, someone younger with a different outlook on life.

This slow, small story is definitely not a slow, small film. It is full of nuances and information. Filmed on location in Mumbai, the city is constantly in action. The Dabbawalla are for real, founded 125 years ago. There are 5000 of them in Mumbai, and their chance of making a mistaken delivery is one in six million. One could say it is fate which bring Ila and Saajan together. An Auntie, Mrs. Deshpande, who lives upstairs – a woman whom we never see – gives motherly advice out of her open window such as “Eating five almonds a day is good against forgetfulness” to Ila below, as well as anyone else within earshot, Director Ritesh Batra said that he didn’t plan on making a film about Indian food. Still, definitely don’t watch it on an empty stomach, and make a list of Indian restaurants in your neighborhood; you’ll feel the urge to run there immediately after the film. Not your Bollywood film of bright colors and dance, but still a portrayal of life in India, this showed at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The music, by Max Richter, is perfectly doled out in the right places – a gift to tired ears. See if you can guess the ending. (Becky Tan)

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