The Lunchbox Blu-ray Review
Saajaan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) is a man just going through the motions. He is a widower who works in Mumbai in a government job processing claims. He’s been doing it for 35 years. Saajaan does his job well and never makes mistakes. He’s now counting down the days until his retirement in a month. His supervisor asks him to train an employee who will taking his job. Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is an eager employee wanting to get off on the right foot. He is enthusiastic, while Saajaan is sullen and reserved.
In Mumbai they have a large delivery service. They deliver meals from homes and restaurants to people at work. In the afternoon, the containers are returned back. On this day Saajaan is surprised how much he has enjoyed his lunch. Usually his lunch is quite bland and nondescript, but not today. It is because there was a mix-up with the delivery. His lunch, which usually was from a delivery service, came from a young married woman who wanted to spice up her marriage with a delectable meal prepared by her. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) had been feeling very distant from her husband of late and thought this would help. Instead it would start a wonderful relationship that takes its time to develop.
THE LUNCHBOX is a wonderful romantic drama written and directed by Ritesh Batra in a remarkable debut. Batra uses food as a tool to communicate throughout. You can practically smell these delightful dishes through the screen. Ila’s different moods produces different dishes. If she wants to think of happier times, she prepares something that her husband really likes. Other situations produce different dishes that suit the moment.
Ila asks her hubby how he liked his lunch since her container came back completely cleaned out. He wasn’t enthusiastic and stated food that she did not prepare. Ila realizes then that her food went to the wrong person. Ila writes a note to Saajaan about the mistake. She’s expecting a thank you for the food. Instead he says the next meal had too much salt. She gets him back the next day by making the food really spicy. Eventually their communication gets more personal. Ila tells about her neighbor and her life. Saajaan gives his observations of his surroundings before finally giving her more personal information.
Batra has a great knack here in showing how people can change with even one new encounter. It really is as simple as that. We see early on that Saajaan is not nice to the local kids playing in the street next to his place. He doesn’t give back the ball that was hit over. Later on as his mood improves, he is warmer to these same kids. The relationship Saajaan has with Shaikh is rocky at first as well. Saajaan really doesn’t want to train him and doesn’t want to be bothered in his final month. Shaikh is persistent though in bugging him until he gives in.
The gist of the film is simply about relationships. It is about the two new relationships that Saajaan start with Ila and to a lesser extent with Shaikh. Saajaan learns that Shaikh is an orphan and he really doesn’t know his job really well. He also finds out that he has a girlfriend that he plans on marrying soon. There is a big theme of acceptance that swirls around. Shaikh has fought hard to get his father-in-law’s approval and the approval of Saajaan at work. Ila wants Saajaan to understand her situation with her husband and is looking for some comforting with their notes. Saajaan gradually comes around to wanting to be a part of a family again. He looks wistfully at the family across the way as they eat dinner. He intently stares at the food because Ila’s good cooking reminds of earlier days with his wife.
I never wanted THE LUNCHBOX to end. I had a great time with these characters as they grow and live their lives. Letter writing is such a lost art with email and texts now. There is just something more personal when you write something on a piece of paper instead of through a computer or cell phone. It’s also very touching as Saajaan becomes friends with Shaikh and is there for him at his wedding. Ila’s marriage is failing as she discovers that her husband has been unfaithful. There is a meeting that gets set up between Ila and Saajaan. The circumstances that happen afterwards are far reaching and believable. I perfectly understood what Saajaan goes through and communicates in the end.
THE LUNCHBOX is a treasure of a movie. It is deeply poignant and lovely in its delivery. This is one film that can’t be missed.
THE LUNCHBOX BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: India comes through well on the screen. I like how the different lunchboxes have their own distinct colors that stand out here.
Audio: Most of the dialogue is in Hindi, but I never did have trouble hearing what people had to say. That is always a big plus in my book.
Feature Commentary with Screenwriter/Director Ritesh Batra: Batra gives a nice matter of fact commentary. He gives background on the delivery system and how he shot scenes. He tells of the great chemistry between the two male leads and how they played off each other.