"The Lunch Box" – A New Film Report
Conjure up a housewife, who’s a pretty good cook– with a husband that’s forgotten marital affection is something he provides. What does she do? Quaint wisdom has it that the secret to a man’s libido is through his taste buds… And, in Mumbai, where she now resides, there moves a vast lunch service that feeds thousands of workers each day. The way it works is fantastic to observe: Every day, men on bicycles collect prepared lunch meals from restaurants as well as single chefs (mostly house wives); and through an archaic but effective system of conveyance these box lunches get delivered to folks working in the city.
Thus the housewife in this film has contrived through this service that her husband shall eat a lunch that should fetch some “results”. But– and here’s the film’s foil– her lunch gets delivered to a man who’s not her husband. His name is Saajan, and he is played by Ifram Kahn. The housewife, Ila, is played by Nimrat Kaur.
… So here’s Saajan-sitting at his desk in a cramped office warren– one day opening up interlocking food cups that make him slump back with surprised pleasure as he takes in their aromas. Next comes a bemused smile as he savors each delicious spoonful. (How is this happening?) He guesses there’s been a mistake. Meanwhile, Ila soon learns that it’s not her husband who’s the one whose heart she has touched.
Ila and Saajan start writing to each other. Ila shares with Saajan that her husband is treating her with cool distain. Saajan shares the loveless life that he leads- as a widower who shortly will retire.
The director, Ritesh Batra, has given us a gem of a virtual match that leaves us at the end-puzzled whether or not these two really get together. But, regardless, we see two hearts longing to be fulfilled– yet, not knowing whether they’re really fit for each other– cautiously risking crushed disenchantment should their paths never quite meet in accord.
Into this film there strides a young man who is meant to take the place of Saajan, once he retires from his accounting position. His name is Shaikh, (Nawajuddin Sidoliqui); and he brings a freshness to “THE LUNCH BOX”–as an orphan might who has had to fight to make a place for himself and develop some astute moxie. Saajan rebuffs him but Shaikh refuses to let him succeed; and slowly Saajan comes to see there is fresh courage in his outlook. Shaikh even tells Saajan-neatly spilling the beans of what the theme of the film is: “Often the wrong train takes you to the right station!” (In Mumbai it’s an apt saying.)
Mumbai has a population of twenty million souls. There is no question that companionship isn’t lacking, but that special contact with one’s own inner self is not allowed to flourish much- and even special one-on-one intimacies are hard to come by, since locals tend to mostly be in crowded situations or singular bewilderment. That these two folks find each other haphazardly in the midst of such a city counts as a miracle. Of course, there’s danger, too.
I noticed with earnest surprise just how both Saajan and Ila processed their roles by showing their charged emotions through the silent movements of cautious breath-taking. I could almost see what they were singly going through by the way they were breathing.
This film is a bit slow-moving, yet it might be one for you to spend some time with.It’s not an eight, but I wouldn’t hesitate giving it a reflective SEVEN. You’ll feel something that’s “real” in it.