Movie Review: The Lunchbox

Food, friendship and fate come together in an original film that shines a light on one of India's lesser known heroes - The Dabbawallahs

Posted: 09.04.14

Pick a fact. Any fact. And then imagine making a film about that very nugget of information. That's exactly what Ritesh Batra did when he devised the concept for The Lunchbox, a sweet yet savory tale of food, friendship and fate.

The story is inspired by Mumbai's Dabbawallahs; the cities 5000 lunchbox delivery men who drop off lunch to over 4 million workers every day. We're not talking the kind of tuck-shop trolley you may get wheeled around your office - these are bespoke deliveries, picked up from people's actual homes or favourite cafe and then delivered direct to their desk by a man on a bicycle. These Dabbawallahs are illiterate but use a complex coding system of colours and symbols to help them do their drop offs. For 120 years this service has worked and also inspired scholars around the world who have been fascinated by its accuracy - research by Harvard university discovered that only 1 in 4 million lunchboxes is ever delivered to the wrong address and that's the very fact that inspired the film.

Saajan (Irrfan Khan), an old, soon to retire office worker one day receives the lunchbox meant for Ila's (Nimrat Kaur) husband. That afternoon their lives change as each day Saajan is taken on a culinary journey of satisfying spices, homemade chapattis and fresh vegetables, lovingly prepared by a young housewife who finds pleasure in the fact her food is finally being appreciated.

One of the highlights of the film is that very early on you are drawn into the bustling nature of Mumbai life. From children playing on the streets to the rickety rush hour trains and hoards of Dabbawallahs gathering at lunchtime; it's a feast for the viewer's senses as much as it is for the characters. 
The story moves at steady pace, presenting each new day as if it was similar to the last. In this way it builds up the monotony of life based by these two characters, Saajan who each day returns to the same office he's been commuting to for 35 years and Ila's routine of preparing lunch then waiting for the empty dabba to be returned home. It's a small story in a mega metropolis but one that has been thought out with care and creativity. It's a pleasure to see a film that takes a part of Indian culture that is is so distinct, presenting it in a way that's real and relevant.

The lead characters are a joy to watch and as the story unfolds there is a sense of relief that these two solitary people have 'found' each other but what would have been welcomed is a little more about the the work and lives of the Dabbawallahs - they are an asset to the city and deserve international recognition - watch it for that purpose alone and then secondly because it makes a refreshing change to the usual masala movies - this time the seasoning is in the story.

The Lunchbox is released in the UK on Friday 11th April 2014 at cinemas and to download.

We have six pairs of tickets to give away to two special Taster screenings in London on Thursday 10th April 2014, at The Curzon Mayfair and Curzon Richmond which include a complimentary dabba filled with snacks. To enter email your name, age and phone number to stating which screening you prefer to attend. Show time is 6.20pm. 

Terms and conditions: Closing date: Thursday 10th April, 2014, 10am. Winners will be notified by phone call by lunchtime on the 10th. Please only enter if you can attend. Entrants must be over 18 years old. 

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