A highly unique and unorthodox phenomenon is the spine of this deliciously delightful film from director Ritesh Batra; over five thousand “Dabbawalas” deliver “tiffin boxes” containing hot lunches (prepared at home or restaurants) for over four hundred thousand people in the workplace; founded in 1890 by Mahadeo Havaji; this organization still thrives in the bustling, cacophonous over-populated city of Mumbai, India. Bicycles miraculously, dexterously maneuvered by the Dabbawalas, deliver their goods punctually every day.
“The Lunchbox” commences in the kitchen of “Ila” (lovely Nimrat Kaur) as she prepares a flavorful lunch for her inattentive, conspicuously absent husband; mistakenly it is delivered to “Saajan” (Irfan Khan, marvelously wonderful), a sour, misanthropic claims adjuster; he returns the tiffin box with a complimentary note; Ila’s culinary enchantments titillate his palate and defrost his glacial heart. Their relationship flourishes through the written word; trading stories, becoming more revealing, personal and poignant with each delivery. Flirting with romance films of the 30’s; resonating with the artful adroitness of “Cyrano”, the charm of the film is palatable.
“Lunchbox” is saved from the melodramatic by the performance of handsome (Tony Curtis lookalike) Nawazuddin Siddiqui as “Shaikh”, hired to replace Saajan upon his retirement; his exuberant, relentless joviality eventually erodes Saajan’s acidic disposition; an unlikely friendship ensues, altering, enriching their lives.
In one encapsulating moment Shaikh catches Saajan clandestinely slipping one of Ila’s notes into his pocket; he is surprised by the use of “paper” as a communication tool; digitalization has replaced the potency, intimacy of the handwritten wood; tangibility has been erased by the computer.
Without a kiss or embrace “The Lunchbox” is a warm, transformative tale of love, healing and hope.