HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Lunchbox
HTS Overall Score:83
When one thinks of Indian movies their immediate thought is of the flashy and music infused films of the “Bollywood” genre, ala “Slumdog Millionaire and the like. Here we have a much more toned down and dramatic film, as “The Lunchbox” takes a leisurely stroll down the lives of two different people and the intertwining lives of the people around them. An unexpected success worldwide, “The Lunchbox” is something I HAD to check out after seeing such acclaim for its nontraditionally Indian roots and see for myself. I came out very satisfied from the viewing and now see why it got praised so much. Much less a show, and more of a character study or a “slice of life” view of what happens in two people’s lives over a simple mistake in delivery.
Mumbai is known for its world famous lunchbox delivery system. A person can have a lunchbox delivered to them daily from a restaurant, a cooking service or a loved one and the lunchbox is delivered each day at lunch time and returned to the sender hours later. The main story focuses around Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and an older office worker named Saajan Fernandes (the fantastic Irrfan Khan). Ila is a lonely housewife, ignored by her husband and depressed she tries to use the age old technique of “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Cooking an incredibly complex and special lunch she hopes to gain his attention and turn his eye back towards her. Unfortunately the Mumbai delivery system mis delivers her lunchbox to Saajan. Saajan is an incredibly lonely man. His wife has died years ago, he is one month away from retirement and after working for 35 years as a claims specialist in the same company he’s become jaded and tired. Eating along, working along, even spending his free time along he’s become the “grumpy old man down the street” to everyone. Not realizing that the lunchbox isn’t from his usual delivery service, he’s pleasantly surprised at wonderful cooking, even going so far as to give a compliment to the cooking service who normally prepares his food (and is now feeding Ila’s husband by mistake). Realizing that the food has gone astray after her husband comes home, Ila decides to thank Saajan for his obvious enjoyment of her lunch by cooking another and sending a note along with it. Thus follows a friendship that will change both of their lives.
Continuing in their note exchanges, Saajan and Ila soon become friends and as each lunch is delivered and returned the two start to peel back the onion layers that make up their lives. Ila has realized that her husband has been ignoring her for the reason that many men ignore their wives when they have a guilty conscience and Saajan has started to see life as actual “life” again, instead of as a chore. Each one finds the comfort in their notes that they so desperately need at their points in life. Saajan is nearing retirement as an old man and feels that there is nothing to look forward to and Ila burns with pain as a young jilted woman who still has so much ahead of her. As the friendship goes on the two begin to heal the wounds and the pain that has been inflicted on their lives over the years and slowly begin the transformation.
The film doesn’t tell the tale of a romance, although as two people begin to know each other those types of feelings do show their head for a while, but instead leisurely tells the tale of how “the wrong train can get you to the right place”. Ila has to come to grips with her life and taking control of it and Saajan begins to get his life back. A crusty old man, he’s pushed everyone around him away and with the help of Ila, begins to actually bloom and reach out again in the form of a new replacement for his job, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Intelligent, sweet and raw, “The Lunchbox” strolls along at a very leisurely pace, never rushing, but never boring as well. As the story unfolds each layer of respective personalities is laid bare and you see that before a wound can heal, it needs to be dressed and torn open in order to get rid of any infected parts. The story is textured with incredible detail and the two main leads hit it out of the park. Irrfan Khan is incredible in just about everything he’s in and this is no different as he plays a very mellow and introspective role. Nimrat Kaur is wonderful as the young woman and plays it with a sense of nervous excitement that is infectious at times.
Ritesh Batra is a rather inexperienced director, is miles ahead of many young upstarts as he directs a film that is nuanced and beautiful from beginning to end. Everything about the film is impeccably detailed, from the eating of the lunch every day, to the unfolding and reading of the notes time and time again. Each experience feels warm and soft, with a sort of haunting ambience and mystery that makes lunchtime an exciting time for both the people on screen as well as the ones in their chairs.
Rated PG for thematic material and smoking
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=21914[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded image is simply fantastic. Shot in Mumbai, we are privy to a different cultural way of shooting and definitely a different color palette than we are used to. The film is covered in very earthy colors that tend to lean a bit towards the greys and yellow end of the spectrum. While the movie has those colors as its stand out grading there is still plenty of primaries as you see a traditional wedding and all of the fantastically saturated colors that go along with an Indian celebration. The reds and greens of Sahaikh’s wedding garments are bright and cheerful along with the red roses glued to his new wedding present. Detail is fantastic throughout the picture, with lots of emphasis on close ups and facial detail. Textures and fine detailing on clothing is fantastic and the shots of Ila cooking her fantastic meals are something to make your water as they seem to be right in front of you (for someone like me who adores Indian cuisine it was hard to not want to leap into the picture and start chowing down). Black levels are very good, with only a few instances of black crush, rare, but still there. The disc seems to have been given a very solid bitrate and the film is free of any digital artifacting or tampering to my eyes. Definitely a fantastic looking image.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=21922[/img]Not to be left out, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA Hindi track is very beautifully nuanced and full of life. Who would have thought a film about two people in homes and offices being this lively? During the dialogue moments we have very solid vocal separation and little use of the surrounds. However, the city of Mumbai is a bustling place and Saajan’s many trips from the office to home are filled with a cornucopia of ambient noises. The bus wheels rumble across the city streets, a rickshaw rattles and creaks as it moves and the sounds of the populace lights up all 6 channels with much aplomb. The little tiny details are what’s so delightful about the film as those little things, like a closing door, or the “tink” of a cooking pan are perfectly replicated and balanced well with the rest of the track. LFE is solid and adds some very nice low end to the track, never really causing a sensation of being flattened in your seat, but instead focusing on saturating the film discretely and accurately. Some people might raise their eyebrow at the dialogue being both Hindi as well as smattered with English. The culture in Indian tends to bring English into everyday culture, very similar to how it’s popular in Japan, due to their interactions with the rest of Europe and the U.S. So while it may seem strange to the viewer it’s rather natural over there and surprisingly accurate.
• Commentary Track With "The Lunchbox" Writer/Director Ritesh Batra
“The Lunchbox” is a wonderful piece of entertainment for thos of us who like character driven dramas. A slice out of the life of two people it doesn’t so much tell a convoluted plot, but it explores how people interact, how they respond to kindness and how that kindness can heal a great deal of pain and allow for new beginnings. The uniquely shot picture and stunning audio are treats for sure and while the film is light on the amount of extras, the director’s commentary is rather deep and refreshing, filled with many nuggets of fun. Definitely recommended.
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Written by: Ritesh Batra
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: Hindi: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Blu-ray Release Date: July 1st, 2014
Buy The Lunchbox Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
More about Mike