Review: The Lunchbox Marks Ritesh Batra’s Pleasant Directorial Debut

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Nimrat Kaur is Ila in The Lunchbox. (Michael Simmonds/Sony Pictures Classics)

Nimrat Kaur is Ila in The Lunchbox. (Michael Simmonds/Sony Pictures Classics)

The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra’s directorial debut, is nothing less than exceptional.

The film centers around Ila (Mimrat Kaur), a middle-class housewife who, once again, attempts to revive her marriage through what she enjoys most – cooking. She tries to incite some type of response from her indifferent husband through the lunches she packs for him.

But through an error, her husband’s lunch is delivered to a different man, a soon-to-be retired lonely man named Saajan (Irrfan Khan).

Curious to find out her husband’s reaction to her lunches, Ila places heart-felt notes in them every day. However, this turns into an anonymous conversation that quickly turns into an unexpected friendship.

Little by little, these notes turn into small confessions about their loneliness, memories, fears and joys. Through these notes, they each find a sense of self and a purpose to life in an otherwise monotonous city, as well as a new beginning with hopes and dreams.

The Indian film industry, commonly known as Bollywood, produces hundreds of solid films each year. The Lunchbox is no exception, and proves to be a moving, yet excellent film that anyone who has experienced loneliness can relate to.

The film is powerful, with a perfect ending – a Hollywood ending. This film presents us with characters that are very common, every-day people that feel real. They successfully portray the emotions their characters aim to convey. But the most appealing aspect of the film is its original idea and script. It depicts old Indian traditions, mainly the custom of Indian women supporting their families through the preparation and distribution of lunches to anonymous individuals directly at the workplace. The script is very well-written and never steers too far away from reality, yet brings a sense of fantasy to the characters.

Indian films are characterized by their portrayal of emotion, and the directors often attempt to reconcile human and family relations through day-to-day situations.

The Lunchbox, which was shot in Mumbai, provides us with an accurate depiction of daily life in Mumbai – its people, sights, and culture. Besides showing us its people’s lethargy in day-to-day life, it explores the people’s drive to escape that monotonous prison they find themselves in, just like Ila and Saajan.

Overall, both Khan and Kaur delivered masterful and compelling performances. And what Batra accomplishes with his direction goes well beyond it being fresh.


The Lunchbox
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens Friday, February 28 in Los Angeles

4 Stars

Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (must-see), 4 stars (exceptional), 3 stars (solid), 2 stars (average) and 1 star (unworthy).

Ramon Aviles is a Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering lifestyle and entertainment.
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