The Lunch Box
October 10, 2013
A simple tale that spins out delicately like the thread of a spider’s web. Fate randomly throws out a thread of connection and it catches, sticks, and grows. Every day, each of us is thrown little threads of connections. How we handle them depends on our circumstances, attitudes and moods. In this story, two lonely people latch on to a little random thread that connects them and make it grow.
Of course, the thread between them is the lunchbox carried through the streets of Mumbai by the famous dabba system. In
the background is bustling Bombay and its crowded trains, streets and blocks of flats.
There are the details of the lives of the two protagonists. The way she, Ila, talks to Aunty upstairs by yelling through the chute and the passing of items between the two flats through a little basket, is familiar. Neglected, lonely, Ila tries to capture the interest of her straying husband. She tries new recipes which evoke drooling tongues. A particularly poignant moment and which affected most of the women I went to see the movie with, is when she puts on a dress she wore on her honeymoon and tries to get her husband to look at her anew.
The lunches she cooks painstakingly to gain the attention of her indifferent husband reach someone else. And as their chance relationship grows through notes, she is content not to rectify the mistake. They share the details of their lives and become happier that there is someone listening..
Cigarette smoking, punctilious Mr.Saajan Fernandez who prefers to eat alone hasn’t made a mistake in his accounts for 35 years and is due to retire in 30 days. Irrfaan Khan seems to effortlessly transform into an aging truculent widower, albeit without a paunch. The smart new assistant who is to replace him is already there – a man he resents and dislikes and refuses to train. As Saajan’s relationship with Ila grows, we watch his transformation. Slowly, he gets involved in the life of his junior. He becomes friendlier with the children on his street. He becomes alive to the songs children sing on the train.
Ila goes to visit her mother and sees her empty life. For so many years she has shared her house and bed with her husband but not her heart. The years have passed in a routine of cooking and serving. And now there are no feelings left when he passes on. Later we realize, this has made an impact on Ila’s decisions.
The director or the editor or the writer or all three involve the watcher in the movie. We have to draw our own conclusions, make the connections, join the dots. Every thought process is not spelled out. We make the leaps with our own processes. The loneliness within every individual is something that we identify with however busy our lives may appear.
We sit watching a period of time in the lives of two people; as Saajan looks through the windows of the flats opposite. We are left with a good feeling. We hope their lives will go on better afterwards. No songs, comedy, fights, stories of other people’s lives to distract. Just a simple romance between two real people. Who can resist?