Think ’84 Charing Cross Road’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and you’ll have the basic premise behind this quiet Indian gem. Now take away the Hollywood happy-ever-afters to give it some reality, replace the above’s semi-affluent locales with an overcrowded, poverty riven city and a picture starts to emerge of how this sub-continental offering differs from the aforementioned.
In a beautifully nuanced performance Irrfan Khan plays lonely, ageing widower Saajan Fernandes. He ponders over figures all day in a dreary insurance assessment office, one step up from a sweat shop, with little in life to give pleasure. Then something goes badly awry. The normally ever-reliable Mumbai dubbawalahs (lunch delivery men) have uncharacteristically stuffed up, with his tiffin (hot lunch) being delivered in the wrong dubba (tin lunch box). From a normally mediocre repast he is taken to food heaven. Rather than coming from a street stall, it emerges the preparer is the young, lustrous but maritally ignored Ila (the gorgeous Nimrat Kaar). When this error is perpetuated a paper, correspondence commences and they are taken into each others’ lives quite intimately, albeit never face to face. Ila soon realises that any attempt to curry favour – oh dear, terrible pun – through her culinary skills and other obvious attractions, with hubby, is doomed to failure. Her focus turns more decidedly to Saajan and she attempts to set up a meeting. At this point it all goes pear shaped. Meanwhile, our reluctant hero has developed another significant relationship – this time with an underling (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) whom he is supposedly meant to be training up to replace himself once he takes impending retirement. Between Shaikh and Ila Saajan starts to get a life back – but where will these relationships lead?
This is a treat of a movie, but when the end credits suddenly appeared there was an intake of breath from the audience Leigh and I shared the movie with. This was not meant to happen – all was supposed to come together perfectly with no issues unresolved. Hollywood life is like that, but is that always the case in the real world? What it did do was to give the lovely Leigh and I fodder for a discussion on our homeward bound journey over the ‘what ifs’ abounding in the movie’s abrupt termination. And maybe that was just the point of the piece. It was delightful, just delightful – so for something just a tad away from the usual do try and see it soon at a home of quality cinema near you.
‘The Lunchbox’ official trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwYN-XS92yY