UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Dar Motion Pictures, Sikhya Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.and NFDC’s The Lunchbox is the unusual story of two strangers – a young lady and a fairly old man on the verge of retirement – getting to know each other because of the lunchbox.
Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a hassled housewife, dealing with an extra-marital affair her husband (Nakul Vaid) is having. She tries her best to win his affection and prepares tasty food every day, which she sends in a tiffin carrier through the famous dabbawala network of Bombay. As luck would have it, the tiffin one day gets delivered to Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) in his office, due to a mix-up. Fernandes’ tiffin, prepared by a restaurant because he is a widower, simultaneously gets delivered to Ila’s husband. Since the chance of a wrong delivery by the dabbawala network is almost zero, the mistake never gets detected by the delivery men so that the two tiffins continue to get interchanged day after day.
Realising on the very first day of the mix-up, that her husband had not got the tiffin, Ila sends a hand-written note in the tiffin the next day, addressing the person who had eaten the food the previous day. Fernandes replies to the letter and in this way, the two start communicating with one another without having met each other. They exchange notes on anything and everything. Ila even tells Fernandes about her husband’s extra-marital affair.
Then, one day, Fernandes and Ila decide to meet. Do they meet? Or do they not?
The story (Ritesh Batra) is very simple but sweet. Ritesh Batra’s screenplay is replete with moments, some funny, some sweet, some cute, some bitter. The humour is brought out so beautifully that it would keep the evolved audience smiling at many places, even laughing out loud at some. No doubt, the thin story-line, the slow pace and the laidback screenplay make the film class-appealing but it must be added that for that audience, the film offers a lot by way of entertainment.
Alongside the track of Fernandes and Ila, there is a track of Fernandes and Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the new recruit who would be taking over charge from Fernandes. The scenes between Fernandes and Shaikh are so funny that they entertain a great deal. Although the film is meant predominantly for the classes, its very slow pace and its open-ended climax are two weak points. Dialogues, written by Wasan Bala, Nimrat Kaur and Ritesh Batra, are extraordinary.
Performances of the actors are of a very high order. Irrfan Khan lives the role of Saajan Fernandes, a lonely widower on the verge of retirement and who suddenly finds a reason to smile again. He is outstanding in his portrayal of a lonely man about to retire from work. His body language, his gradual transformation when he starts looking forward to the letters in the tiffin carrier, they all add up to his award-winning performance. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is outstanding as Shaikh. He provides a lot of humour in the film with his unabashed style of acting. His performance is so effective that in the initial scenes in which he appears, he makes himself both, repulsive and endearing – repulsive if one thinks from Fernandes’ point of view and endearing if one thinks from his (Shaikh’s) point of view! His is also an award-worthy performance. Nimrat Kaur delivers a supremely natural performance and shines in the role of the middle-class wife trying to come to terms with her husband’s love affair. Nakul Vaid, Denzil Smith (as Mr. Shroff) and baby Yashvi Puneet Nagar (as Yashvi) lend able support. Lillete Dubey is as natural as natural can be in the role of Ila’s mother. Bharti Achrekar’s voice acting is brilliant.
Ritesh Batra’s direction is remarkable. Although this is his first attempt at feature film direction, he handles the subject with admirable ease and rare confidence. His narrative style is unique and pleasant and his use of Bharti Achrekar as just a voice character is praiseworthy. He has made a splendid film which is sweet and entertaining. Michael Simmonds’ camerawork is lovely. Max Richter’s background music is suitably understated. Editing, by John Lyons, is crisp.
On the whole, The Lunchbox is a delightfully delicious film. It will be simply loved by the classes and will score in the multiplexes of the big cities. The start in several centres may be slow but collections will pick up in the big cities due to positive mouth publicity. It will win a lot of accolades and awards too.