The Lunchbox: A banquet for two lonely people (with video)

Published: March 20, 2014

JAY STONE
POSTMEDIA NEWS

The Lunchbox
Rating: 3½ stars out of 5
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Running time: 104 minutes (In English and Hindi with English subtitles)

he Lunchbox-Bollywood

Irrfan Khan as Saajan. Photo by Michael Simmonds, inThe Lunchbox. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

“Sometimes, the wrong train will get you to the right station,” someone says in The Lunchbox, a love letter — to lonely people, to the power of food, to India itself — that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “let’s do lunch.”

Ila (the lovely Nimrat Kaur) is a lonely and neglected wife trying to win her husband back with her cooking: you can almost smell the fragrances that rise from a pot as she adds more spices to the sauce. She is making his lunch, which is packed into four stainless-steel containers, clipped together with an ingenious collar, and packed into a bag to be delivered to his office.

The delivery system is a charming testament to Indian manpower and an indictment of its chaos. Lunchboxes by the thousands are taken by bicycle, train and delivery man to thousands of desks, and Ila has made a particularly pungent meal to win back her distant mate.

“One bite of that and he’ll build you a Taj Mahal,” yells her upstairs neighbour — known only as Auntie — who shouts advice through an open window. Ila replies that the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum.

Although the lunchbox service brags that even Harvard University has studied its methods — indeed, the King of England himself was impressed — the box is delivered to the wrong man. It winds up on the desk of Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), a glum widower who works in unsmiling isolation, preparing claims for an insurance company. Nevertheless, he loves the meal.

Ila discovers the mix-up and eventually she and Saajan begin a correspondence, placing notes in the meals that go to his desk and the empty containers, some of them practically licked clean, that are sent back to her.

Saajan is about to retire — the formally polite Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) flits about his desk, trying to learn insurance lore — but he is being brought back to life by these meals, and by this connection. And Ila, who smells the odours of duplicity as she washes her husband’s shirts, begins to see a new life as well.

It’s a slight film, but director Ritesh Batra, making his first feature, encompasses the film’s gentle performances into the chaos of Mumbai, a place so crowded that, as Saajan notes, people are buried standing up.

The teeming humanity has left two lost souls behind, and we watch them — cool and untouched in the heat of the air and the spices — yearning toward one another. What they do about it is the movie’s last, tantalizing dish.

jstone@postmedia.com

canada.com/stonereport

Tags: , , , , , ,




Featured

football-100year journey

B.C.’s South Asian pioneer Ranjit Mattu mentored many football stars

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Even as a child, Ranjit Mattu knew he had game. From his first play on the field of Mount Pleasant Elementary,…
Continue Reading »

pioneers

Dharm Singh Gill changed the way Sikhs were regarded for wearing turbans at work

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Little did Dharm Singh Gill realize that an act of heroism would change the way Sikhs were regarded for wearing their…
Continue Reading »

Jacqui Feldman shows off a recovering Sugar, her 13-year-old poodle that Terra Nova vet Dr. Javaid Chaudhry, rear, helped save after operating to remove a tumour. Feldman, who is battling cancer herself, fell on hard times and couldn’t afford to pay the $3,000-plus for Sugar’s procedure.  Alan Campbell/Richmond News

Richmond veterinarian steps up to save cancer sufferer’s dying dog

ALAN CAMPBELL RICHMOND NEWS Richmond’s Jacqui Feldman, who’s suffering from terminal cancer, is crediting a local veterinarian with saving her life. It was a few weeks ago…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

A look at Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s first cabinet

THE CANADIAN PRESS EDMONTON — A look at Alberta’s NDP cabinet sworn in Sunday: Rachel Notley (Edmonton Strathcona) Premier, minister of intergovernmental affairs. Notley, 51,…
Continue Reading »

Japan-Canada trade talks stalled with no meetings in sight

By Mike Blanchfield THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA — Trade talks have stalled between Canada and Japan — one of the Harper government’s priority countries for…
Continue Reading »

football-100year journey

B.C.’s South Asian pioneer Ranjit Mattu mentored many football stars

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Even as a child, Ranjit Mattu knew he had game. From his first play on the field of Mount Pleasant Elementary,…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

weight-loss

Do we need to exercise more or eat less?

JILL BARKER MONTREAL GAZETTE A battle is waging in the scientific journals between several prominent health and fitness experts. In one corner are physicians Aseem Malhotra,…
Continue Reading »

exam scores

Identical twins’ mark sheets almost as identical and the story of a courageous young achiever

HINDUSTAN TIMES AND VANCOUVER DESI They are identical twins and, interestingly, even their mark sheets look almost the same. Ranchi twins Aporupa and Anorupa Chattopadhyay …
Continue Reading »

India-pharma-under scanner

U.S. lawsuit puts generic drug imports from India under scanner

IANS Washington – A U.S. class action lawsuit accusing India’s Ranbaxy of large-scale deception on its generic drug applications puts a question mark on drug…
Continue Reading »

100 year journey

Apart from the overwhelming cold, Sucha Singh Bagri has fond memories of his first few days in B.C.

SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI Sucha Singh Bagri arrived in Canada with his father Harnam Singh Bagri on Feb 2, 1935, on the Empress of Russia,…
Continue Reading »

swimsuits

Who wants to be a Princess? Beauty pageant contestants undergo rigorous training

VANCOUVER DESI Divas aspiring to become Indian Princesses are undergoing rigorous training before the grand finale of the beauty pageant in Mumbai. Indian princess pageant 2015 ◄…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Items of clothing are displayed in room 331 of the Martinez Hotel, where Parisian fashion house Elie Saab provides sartorial services to celebrities attending the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 21, 2015. During the Cannes Film Festival, room 331 is radically transformed into a red carpet emergency room - where celebrities like Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman can rush to if they pop out of a dress, or a zipper breaks. Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

‘Nip slips’ and broken zippers: Red carpet Emergency Room for Cannes wardrobe malfunctions always full of drama

THOMAS ADAMSON THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNES, France – For most of the year, room 331 of the Martinez Hotel is just your run-of-the mill luxury…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai doesn’t leave her daughter alone even for a night

HINDUSTAN TIMES Apart from walking the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is also screening footage from her upcoming film, Jazbaa. The first…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Photos: Aishwarya Rai an absolute stunner at Cannes 2015 (updated)

VANCOUVER DESI Former beauty queen Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been a Cannes regular for over a decade now. But this year marks her comeback to the…
Continue Reading »