In Mumbai, a misdelivered lunchbox brings together two very different people — a neglected housewife (Nimrat Kaur) and a grumpy, solitary widower on the verge of retirement (Bollywood star Irrfan Khan, also appearing at the Festival in Qissa) — in this funny and touching comedy-drama from first-time writer-director Ritesh Batra.
Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire) stars alongside the radiant Nimrat Kaur in Ritesh Batra's delightful feature debut, in which a mistaken lunchbox delivery paves the way for an unlikely romance. In Mumbai, home to over 18 million people, more than 5,000 famously efficient dabbawallas — lunchbox couriers — navigate chaotic streets to deliver lunches, lovingly prepared by housewives, to working men across the city.
Ila (Kaur) is a housewife living in a middle- class neighbourhood with a husband who ignores her. Saajan (Khan) is a beaten down widower about to retire from his number-crunching job. After Ila realizes that Saajan is receiving the meals meant for her husband, the two begin sending each other letters through the lunchbox.
What starts as an innocent exchange about Ila's cooking gently develops into something more. Outside the space of their daily lives, both Ila and Saajan feel free to express themselves in new ways, leading them both to question how they might find happiness.
Batra's The Lunchbox paints a nuanced portrait of life in contemporary Mumbai, effortlessly weaving themes of gender values, social class, and generational differences into its core love story. Batra's beautifully penned characters — including Aslam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the eager trainee preparing to take over Saajan's job — and gentle, precise direction simply envelope you.
Whether it's the cooking of a meal, the reading of a letter, or the riding of a crowded train, the film's small moments culminate in big impact. In a word: enchanting.