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Directed by Ritesh Batra and screened at the BFI London Film Festival 2013, The Lunchbox is built around the legendary dabbawala service of Mumbai — a lunchbox delivery service that collects home-cooked meals from the suburban homes of businesspeople and transports them into the city in time for lunch.
Ila, a Mumbai home-maker, is trying desperately to reignite the flames of her dwindling marriage, resorting to food as a means to regain the affections of her disinterested, absent husband.
While the dabbawalas are famed for their near-miraculous accuracy, through rain, shine and unholy traffic, The Lunchbox begins its story with a question: what happens when a simple mistake brings two lonely strangers together, giving them only a lunchbox with which to communicate? This is indeed a whimsical question around which to base a film, yet somehow Batra manages to create something both poignant, earnest and light hearted. It is certainly his careful touch as a director that makes all the difference in what could have been little more than a frolicking pseudo-romance.
Instead, the dialogue is rich and the story bittersweet. While The Lunchbox might move too slowly for more impatient filmgoers, the plot is all the better for not taking the quick, obvious paths that it could have. There are moments of ridicule, particularly in the character of Shaikh, the gregarious, endlessly optimistic young accountant due to take over Saajan’s job upon his retirement. However, as the story unfolds, even Shaikh is given greater depth of character, contributing more to the film than mere comic relief.
The Lunchbox leaves you satisfied, heartened and hungry for curried aubergine with chapatti.
Watch a trailer for The Lunchbox: