Mumbai, which we call Bombay, is a wealthy city in India with a huge population. Mumbai has an efficient lunchbox delivery system, transporting hot lunches from homes to businesses where hard-working husbands can receive the homestyle lunches which their wives have tenderly prepared for them each day. A small glitch in this delivery system is the basis for this quaint story concerning an accidental friendship which grew between a man and woman who had never met.
Map of India showing Mumbai (Bombay)
This Indian film uses English sub-titles as the actors speak in their Indian tongue. Strangely, some conversations take place in English, which is puzzling but welcomed nevertheless.
Ila, one of the two major characters in the tale, is unhappy since her husband, Rajeev, has slowly drifted away from conversation with her, and resists her attempts to re-ignite their marriage. She takes special care to prepare elegant lunches for him, just to hear him compliment her on her culinary efforts.
Somehow, the company which picks up Ila’s lunches each day delivers it to Saajan, an older widower who works in the Claims Department of a large firm in downtown Mumbai. The lunchbox is returned to Ila at the end of the day to be readied the next morning for another pickup. Rajeev has received his lunches from the restaurant that prepares Saajan’s meals.
Ila becomes puzzled when Rajeev makes no mention of his delicious lunches. She encloses a note the next day to try to get a reaction from him. Saajan writes back that the lunch was too salty. They begin a correspondence, becoming aware that Saajan has received the wrong lunch each day. Meanwhile, Rajeev has remarked a few times to Ila that he does not want her to give him cauliflower every day as it gives him gas. Of course, Ila has never included cauliflower in her meals.
A friendship slowly develops between Ila and Saajan as they send daily notes to each other, learning of the emptiness in each of their lives. Saajan suggests that they should meet at a restaurant. To relate this incident would spoil the film for the reader who intends to see the movie.
There is even some talk between the two that they should leave Mumbai and settle someplace together, since Saajan is close to his retirement. Again, see the film in order to learn what occurs.
Woman of India
Some comic humor is injected when Ila speaks and gets advice from “Auntie,” who shouts down unseen from the upstairs apartment and can be heard through Ila’s window. “Auntie” keeps very close tabs on Ila and does not hesitate to tell her how to live her life.
I was intrigued by the story of “The Lunchbox,” and realize that such a situation could easily occur, although I initially thought that it was pure fantasy. There are many people whose lives are empty and unsatisfactory, who would obtain great comfort and satisfaction from such a friendship with an unseen correspondent. The film is one of my favorites of the past year.
“The Lunchbox” received many awards in India, in Dubai, in Toronto, and even at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a financial success when shown in the United States, but did not seem to get the publicity it deserved here.