CAST & CREW
The “Dabbawalas” of Mumbai have been the subject of so many discourses in subjects as widely varied as social norms, logistics management, operations research and so many others. In fact, a very informative documentary film had been made of their system of foolproof and clockwork style of operations, highlighting the almost the zero failure that they achieve. It was, however, one of those rare failures that trigger the events of this film.
Plot: “ The Lunchbox” would not have happened if those famed dabbawalas didn’t make one of those rare mix-ups. Saajan Fernandes ( Irrfan Khan in the film) who lost his wife several years back has to depend on the system of dabbawalas for his daily office lunch for the remaining days of his service as an accountant, before his impending retirement. On the other end of the mix up is Ila (enacted by model turned actress Nimrat Kaur), a young wife desperately looking to find the way to her hubby’s heart through the gastronomic delights she likes to serve him through the daily lunch box. Due to this rare mix-up, however, the lunchbox lands with Saajan.
Ultimately Ila also realizes the mistake and sends a letter through the lunchbox to Saajan about the mix-up. The two get quite close through these letters sharing details of their personal lives. An exchange of the messages sent back and forth with the lunches ignites a friendship between the two, as they share memories and events of their own individual lives. While the experience transforms Saajan from being a socially aloof person to a more accommodative one, Ila gets chastised after facing the betrayal of her own husband. Events push Saajan and Ila closer together, but hesitation creeps in Saajan’s mind after seeing the young Ila, but then he has second thoughts and leaves again in search of Ila.
Incidentally, Ritesh Batra, the globally awarded and acknowledged writer-director of the film was also associated with the documentary that had highlighted the way in which the dabbawala system works with such clockwork accuracy. It was that which gave him the idea, and he later on went on to develop the idea into a regular feature film of immense import. The credit goes to Batra for churning out such a sumptuous fare from out of simple ingredients, which leaves the flavor of the film much after it is over – just like the protagonist licking his fingers after tasting the fare of the lunch box. There is nothing artificial about the film – the story telling, the city sense, the simplicity of the easily identifiable everyday characters.
Irrfan Khan with his studied and underplayed serenity fits into the role of a typical no-nonsense 9 to 5 government servant with consummate ease as though he really had spent all those years leading to his impending retirement in the film, following that regular regimen. At the same time, one marvels at the gradual change of his manners once he becomes more of a ‘social animal” through the growing intimacy with Ila and the developing mentorship of Sheikh. No less impressive has been the acting of Nimrat Kaur, and although she has few acting assignments in the past, she is really a revelation and matches the established Irrfan in no small way. Her innocence and naturalness is what makes her performance stand out and leave an impression. Out of others, veteran Bharati Achrekar, though visibly absent most of the time, plays the elderly neighbour to perfection while Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers all the nuances of a finely etched character in his own convincing manner in the role of Saajan’s understudy, Sheikh.
Verdict: This is one film which would be appreciated and savoured by a wide segment of film goers, and probably revisited after that, while recommending viewing to others!
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