Saturday movie review: The Lunchbox

One of the many great things about movies is that they introduce viewers to cultures and lifestyles they would never experience, possibly never even know about, otherwise. That's the case with THE LUNCHBOX.

The Lunchbox movie

I had no idea there was an entire industry in Mumbai, India based on delivering lunch to workers. Five thousand lunchbox delivery men (dabbawallahs) pick up thousands of filled lunchboxes (dabbas) from the homes of workers each day and deliver the boxes to the workers for their midday meal. Day after day after day. The dabbawallahs are known for their efficiency and accuracy. One study concluded only one in a million lunchboxes gets delivered to the wrong person.

THE LUNCHBOX movie tells the tale of one of those rare times a lunchbox was erroneously delivered—and how such a mistake affected the lives of the woman who made the lunch and the man who received it.

Nimrat Kaur plays Ila, a neglected (and beautiful!) housewife trying to connect with her emotionally distant husband through the special food she carefully, lovingly prepares for his lunchbox one day. Only, her special delicacies are delivered to Saajan (played by Irrfan Khan, from LIFE OF PI, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and many other films), a lonely widower on the verge of retirement who joylessly does little more than go through the motions of his dead-end job.

Until he receives the glorious lunchbox intended for Ila's husband. Saajan savors the food Ila made for someone else, then graciously leaves a thank-you note in the box for whomever prepared it. Ila responds to the note with her own. They begin passing notes each day. Eventually their correspondence becomes more personal as each reveals stories of their loneliness and heartbreak as well as memories of better times. The notes passed between Ila and Saajan via the lunchbox bring joy to their lives—danger, too, as they contemplate meeting face to face to see where the friendship might lead.


THE LUNCHBOX is a sweet story with beautiful acting. The loneliness of both Ila and Saajan is palpable, courtesy the excellent performances by both Kaur and Khan. There's a fair share of humor, too, by way of Saajan's coworker, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

I love watching Bollywood films of any sort, but whereas most of my favorites (have you seen BRIDE & PREJUDICE?) feature quite a bit of music and dancing, THE LUNCHBOX is all about the story—the unexpected linking of two lonely strangers and how their serendipitous connection changed their days and possibly their lives.

THE LUNCHBOX (rated PG for "thematic material and smoking") is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. For more information, visit the THE LUNCHBOX official website.