This is my review of The Lunchbox [DVD].
I had not heard of Mumbai’s labour intensive dabbawallah system for delivering to men at work the lunch boxes often prepared by their loving wives, but a recent trip to India had made me aware of the noisy, polluted, gridlocked chaos of its urban streets. In this tale, lonely housewife Ila finds that her delicious lunches, intended to rekindle the ardour of her neglectful, workaholic husband, are somehow reaching the desk of an equally lonely insurance claims clerk on the brink of retirement. Their ensuing correspondence, made more frank and poignant by the fact that they have never met, explores both the pathos and the potential simple joys of daily life. In the process, we see and learn a good deal about life in modern India, which, beneath the film’s many comical moments seems rather sad: men grow old strap-hanging to work on overcrowded public transport, and those in work seem to have to work too hard for relatively little. Are such pleasures as mouth-watering food and colourful wedding celebrations enough to compensate for this?
Some of the plotting is a little unconvincing, but the impression of Indian life is authentic. Ritesh Batra, the director, was wise to steer clear of Bollywood romance in favour of a slower paced, lower key but moving and thoughtful film, which despite moments of sadness leaves the audience feeling positive.