The Lunchbox (2013)

Note: Don’t read this if you have not watched the film; I don’t want to spoil it for you.

For an extraordinary film like ‘The Lunchbox‘, the usual analytical breakdown and an overview is not enough to appreciate its merits and demerits. But I am going to try to express what I feel and think about the film.

And I don’t mean ‘going to blow your mind away‘ extraordinary. With all the hype, most people would expect it to be spectacular. And it is spectacular for storytellers on an entire different level, technical and otherwise, but for most people it’s going to be heart warming and touching.

There is no perfect recipe, but a very skilful execution of an art-form that becomes an experience when you see it, smell it, eat it and digest it and then it becomes a part of you. The film is exactly like that!

Ila, a mother, a daughter and a wife longing for her husband’s attention. I feel odd saying that Nimrat Kaur ‘played’ it well. She was not acting, she was it! From the opening scenes with Nimrat being a mother, to the very last scenes – every moment was complex, multilayered, convincing, and real. She made me bite my fingers, literally.

Now take that performance and multiply it by four – Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan), Shaikh ( Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Aunty (Bharti Achrekar), the main ingredients of the film.

Saajan Fernandez is a widower who is notorious among the neighbourhood kids for being a cold-hearted ass. He is about to retire from his government job as an accountant and is to be replaced by Shaikh – who is mostly a self-made man, but also a faker.

Saajan and Sheikh having lunch - The Lunchbox

Ila, with help from Aunty, is trying to find the way to her husband’s heart through his stomach. But the famous dabbawalas of Mumbai deliver tiffin meant for Ila’s husband to Saajan. And thus begins a series of exchange of letters – letters weaved with simple words and ideas but touching and very emotional.  The letters become the soul of the film.

Irrfan as Sajaan reading letter - The Lunchbox

This fantastic urban love story is seamlessly woven with reality  – locals, lunchbox, mundane work, family problems, soul-searching, visual and auditory metaphors. The changing train-track sounds with changing moods of Mr. Sajaan reminded me of Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar.

Nimrat Kaur as Ila in The Lunchbox

How a house-wife sits down to wash clothes… what is she thinking? What is she thinking when she is cooking? What stories of her own childhood will she tell her kids? How would an old women react when her bed-ridden husband dies? These small details is what makes a film tangible and separates a great film from an average one.

The characters evolve bit by bit, building a story that touched and won my heart. It left me speechless; took me seven rewriters to get to write this.

Someone wise once said that it’s not perfect when you’ve added everything that you could; it’s perfect when you can’t take anything away. And from this recipe, you can’t. The salt perfect and so was everything else.

That brings me to one more thing worth saying. Remember how annoyed you felt, as a kid, when you didn’t get the free toy with something you bought? Hold on to that emotion. Touching films like these must come with free joy of discovery. Which the hype around the film took away. Y u do this?

Nirmat Kaur as Ila reading letter - the lunchbox