Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) is a widower, is about to retire from his job as an accountant. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a young wife seeking her husbands (Nakul Vaid)s attention and looking for ways to put romance back into her marriage; one of which is to cook delicious food for him. Through a rare mix-up of the famous dabbawalas (a complicated system that picks up and delivers lunches from restaurants or homes to people at work) of Mumbai, the lunchbox Ila prepares for her husband gets delivered, instead, to Saajan. Ila eventually realizes the mistake and with the advice of her neighbor aunty (Bharti Achrekar) living in the apartment above her, writes a letter to Saajan about the mix up and places it in the lunchbox (along with her husbands favorite meal) the next day.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.
At work, Saajan is tasked with training his replacement, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an orphan whose incompetence initially annoys Saajan, who is already socially distant since his wifes death. Saajan and Shaikh gradually get to know each other better and strike a close friendship as well. At one point, Saajan saves Shaikhs job by covering for his blatant mistakes on pay orders and he also becomes his best man at his wedding with Mehrunissa (Shruti Bapna).At home, Ila finds out that her husband is having an affair and she begins to give up hope on her marriage. In one of the lunchbox letters, she suggests moving to Bhutan where the cost of living is much less than India.
Saajan writes back suggesting that the two move there together. Ila then offers to meet in person at a popular food joint, but at the appointed time Saajan doesnt turn up. Upon receiving an empty lunchbox the next day, Saajan writes back to the dejected Ila and apologizes, saying that he did arrive and saw her from a distance but couldnt approach her. He explains how young and beautiful she looked, while surmising that he is too old for her and advising her to move on.Some time later, Ilas father, battling with lung cancer, dies in her mothers care.
After her mother (Lilette Dubey) confesses how unhappy her marriage was, Ila decides to search for Saajan, but then learns from Shaikh that he has already retired and headed to Nasik. She writes a last farewell message to Saajan announcing that she has decided to leave her husband and move to Bhutan with her young daughter.Meanwhile, Saajan changes his mind en route to Nasik, returning to Mumbai and going in search of Ila who is last seen at home waiting for her daughter to return from school as he gets help from the same dabbawala who regularly picked up and delivered the eponymous lunchbox.The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 96% based on reviews from 94 critics, with an average rating of 7.7/10.
The sites consensus is: Warm, affectionate, and sweet but not cloying, The Lunchbox is a clever crowd-pleaser from first-time director Ritesh Batra. Critic Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave a rating of 5/5 to the film stating, The greatest love stories are the ones that make you root for the protagonists to come together, despite their destinies. This film illustrates how love transforms the unlikeliest of people. Pratim D. Gupta of The Telegraph gave two thumbs up to The Lunchbox calling it as much a moving and muted love story as it is an evocative portrayal of loneliness.
Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave the movie a 4/5 stating, A well-told old-fashioned romance, The Lunchbox gracefully unknots the trials, tribulations, fears and hopes of everyday people sans the glamour that the city of Mumbai has become synonymous with. Karan Anshuman of the MumbaiMirror also went with a perfect score of 5/5 saying the film was, one of the best films to come out of India in a long time. Raja Sen of Rediff.com praised the film further, giving another perfect score of 5/5 and offered particular compliments to the director Ritesh Batra, stating Batra, who has also written The Lunchbox, has allowed his smashing actors tremendous room to improvise, all the while himself sketching in nuanced details about the city, its food-ferriers, and the many disparities Mumbai is crammed with. Filmmaker/critic Khalid Mohammed of the Deccan Chronicle said What stays in the mind at the end of The Lunchbox is pretty much what stays in mind at the end of a memorable set by jazzmen not their lapses but the heights they scale.
Aditya Grover of YouthTimes gave it 4/5 stars and said, The Lunchbox is delicious and delightful! If youre in the mood to witness genuinely moving cinema, youre in for a treat. The delectable taste of this lunchbox remains in your mouth much after youve left the theatre. Go for it! Suparna Sharma of The Asian Age gave it 4 out of 5 stars and said: The Lunchbox is a gently pulsating sweet-sad story of loneliness and love, of wilting spirits finding water again. There are three women in three marriages in this film, of which two are ailing. The third one is over, almost, only the last rites havent been performed.
There are two men in the film one who has lived a full life and is getting ready to quietly slip off the face of the earth; the other is eager to beginâ€¦ Whats both shocking and soothing is what the film shows us that it takes very little for a soul to come back to life. Mostly, just a hint of hope will do. Trisha Gupta in the Sunday Guardian wrote The Lunchbox is a lovely little film. But it does tick all the boxes that might appeal to festival audiences: quaint Asian urbanism (Mumbai trains, dabba delivery), Indian home-cooking, romance. It provides local colour, without being demandingly untranslatable.
In a less positive review for the Chicago Reader, J.R. Jones criticized the films premise as a gimmick and its purported use of irritating comic foil in reference to Nawazuddin Siddiquis and Bharati Achrekars characters as Shaikh and Mrs. Deshpande, respectively.
Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bharati Achrekar
Arun Rangachari Anurag Kashyap Guneet Monga
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