Several months ago I had written about my excitement over a new Indian film called The Lunchbox. It was just about to make its way into U.S. theaters, and I was scouring the web to see if it would be playing in my city. Being a smaller city, it unfortunately did not have any showtimes, but luckily I discovered it was playing in Philadelphia and I was able to watch it during a visit home with my husband. We saw it at the Ritz Five theater in Old City which was a treat in itself! I had never been to this theater before, but it was like stepping back in time with its old-fashioned decor and small scale. There was one counter from which movie-goers could buy snacks. My favorite aspect was that they even served hot tea and scones! I was in heaven.
I had been anticipating the film for some time by then, and I must say it was worth the wait (and travel partway across the country) to watch it. The Lunchbox features one of my (few) favorite Indian actors, Irfan Khan. It highlights the well-known system of lunch deliveries in India; hundreds of thousands are made daily by dabbawallas who pick up tiffins full of freshly cooked food from people’s homes and deliver them (by bicycle, car, train, etc.) to workers in office buildings and the like. There was even a case study to look at the precision of these deliveries; it was found that a mistake is extremely rare, on the order of 1 per 16 million. Think about that!
The Lunchbox follows the effect of one of these rare errors; Ila (played by Nimrat Kaur), a humble housewife, realizes her tiffins have found their way to Saajan (played by Irfan Khan) rather than to her own uninterested husband. This sparks a line of communication between two strangers, at two different moments in their lives, knit together through the beautiful, fragrant, and lovingly crafted food which Ila toils over each morning after sending her young daughter to school. Much of her day is spent attending to the household chores and preparing for her family’s return in the evenings. We see how her daily rituals, simple and marching forward, are interrupted by the dabbawalla’s exceptionally rare mistake in his route. We see how their two lives are paralleled in loneliness. Unexpected friendships bloom for both of these characters, and both of their lives are changed forever (but I won’t give away how or to what extent!)
The cinematography of the film also was visually very pleasing. I always find that any film that portrays the hustle and bustle of life in India is enjoyable to watch; after all, the country itself is a treasure chest for any photographer/filmmaker. The juxtaposition of Ila and Saajan’s quiet lives against the harmonious chaos around them is beautifully portrayed. The music also conveys the emotional ups and downs nicely. Most importantly, the film elicits empathy for the characters. We have hopes for them as if they were dear friends who were telling us their story personally.
I left the theater feeling refreshed and with many thoughts running through my mind about the movie for a long time afterwards. I had been wanting to write a review for a while, but it was not until I was scrolling through the iTunes movie releases when I saw The Lunchbox was featured that I sat down to write this. I recommend the film to anyone with the caveat that it is a bit slowly paced, but this goes in line with the mood of the film. If nothing else, the food should get you talking!