It is said that good food is often consumed in three steps; It is at first taken in, chewed on and swallowed neither slowly nor quickly, but at just the right pace. The food, engulfs your mouth with a taste so rich and so divine, that your tastebuds remain tingling long after the food has made it’s way into the annals of your stomach.
“The Lunchbox” manages to recreate the exact effect, satisfying your palate by feeding you a charming story that is executed to near perfection, much like your favorite dish.
The film tells the story of Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and Saajan(Irrfan Khan), two people who inspite of staying in the same city would’ve never heard of the other if not for the mistake of the ever trustworthy Mumbai Dabbawallas, a mistake that would forever leave an indelible mark on their lives.
Saajan receives a meal that was intended for Ila’s husband, devours it and sends it back to Ila. The two begin communicating with each other via letters in The Lunchbox and slowly let each other into their lives emotionally if not physically. They exchange stories, funny anecdotes and the like during the course of the film.
The greatest strength of “The Lunchbox” lies in it’s writing and in it’s actors. The lines given to each character have been painstakingly written and the actors take it to another level. Irrfan Khan is terrific as the soon to be retired Saajan Fernandes and effortlessly manages to infuse comic timing and tragedy into his character. He is ably supported by Nimrat Kaur, the lady you’ve seen so often in so many ads. She pulls off the estranged, unloved yet devoted housewife to perfection, and matches Irrfan Khan at every step of the way.
Yet it is still Nawazuddin Siddiqui who walks away with most of the plaudits. For portraying a character that plays second fiddle to the protagonist, Siddiqui rises well above the role of Aslam Sheik, the man who is to replace Fernandes once the old man has retired. There is an almost child like innocence in Siddiqui and it is absolutely wonderful to watch him and Khan sit over a table or on the crowded Mumbai locals and discuss matters of life. The man is a phenomenon and if he continues in this vein, shall go down as one of the greatest actors to have ever graced Bollywood.
There are cameos by Lillete Dubey who plays Ila’s mother and Bharati Achrekar who plays Ila’s heard but not seen neighbor, Mrs Deshpande. Rajat Batra ensures that the audience forms a connection with even the smallest of characters of the film, another of the film’s many strengths.
“The Lunchbox” does hit the occasional salt pocket once in a while, but that does not deter you from feasting on this absolute gem of a film.
Like they say, the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach and “The Lunchbox” certainly justifies that statement and is without doubt one of the best films of the year. Go, indulge a little. You won’t be disappointed.