An off-Bollywood Film – The Lunchbox Review

By on March 14, 2014

Ritesh Batra’s debut film, The Lunchbox is a lovely tale woven around Mumbai’s legendary “Dabbawallah” or lunch box delivery system. The “Dabbawallah” network has been operating for over a century and basically gets home cooked meals from an employee’s home to his office every day, and on time. Much analysis has gone into studying this extraordinary operation, including a case study by Harvard University, (which concluded that the chance of a lunch box being delivered to the wrong address was 1 in a million). This film however focuses on that “one in a million” error to capture that endearing depth of “middle class” life in this vibrant city. The sense of nostalgia that the film taps into is a clear pull for anyone who has lived in Mumbai. But the film will likely also have a broader appeal to most people who can identify with the challenges and realities of life in a big city with old traditions.

Irrfan Khan

The “one in a million” lunchbox error brings two people together who are from different worlds, in age and community, living in the labyrinth of Mumbai. It takes us on a tour of the city, with its aging, crowded yet functional railway system, the everyday lives of its people, their struggles, hope and dreams, and their bold desperation – all portrayed brilliantly by an excellent cast of characters. Each character is portrayed perfectly with all their “imperfections”. From the “Dabbawallah” community who deliver hot home cooked meals from the kitchens of Mumbai homes, to the everyday train riders, and to the children playing on the streets of suburbs like Bandra.

Nimrat Kaur

The story centers on the evolving relationship between two strangers connected midway in life. The director gently and subtly gets us involved in the life of Ila and Saajan through the letters exchanged in the lunch box. It is a pleasant surprise to experience the charm of actual letters exchanged in a world of emails and text messaging. Each scene seems to have been well thought through. We get to know them well as their relationship grows from friendship, to a deep endearment, with dreams of Bhutan and its “gross national happiness”. We get to know the people around them, past and present, even the unseen characters like “Auntie” the neighbor living upstairs. I was reminded of the film “In the mood for Love” made by the famous Wong Kar Wai set in Hong Kong in the early sixties.

Another aspect of the film that appealed to me was its depiction of the simple yet delicious Indian “home cooked” meals with the many daals, vegetables , rice, and rotis (flatbreads). I was charmed by the film’s focus on the details of spices in the simple and real food cooked at home of millions of middle class Indians. I was instantly nostalgic for stuffed spicy baby eggplants or as the Indians say “aubergines” .

Looking forward to more from Ritesh Batra.

For ticket enquiries, visit AMC’s Official website or The Broadway Official website.

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Punam Chopra

Punam is the founder of SpiceBox Organics, a specialty Organic Store located in Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong. She promotes healthy home cooking and provides a wide range of organic spices, grains, and health food products for all home kitchens and pantry needs. She is a yoga teacher, and nutrition health coach with a focus on Ayurveda. She can be contacted at

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