Beyond the Pail

The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, 2013)

This romantic-comedy is an unexpected bitter-sweet gem. Neglected by her husband, Rajeev Sehgal (Nakul Vaid), Ila Sehgal (Nimrat Kaur) tries to woo him back with new recipes with the aid of her unseen aunt (Bharati Achrekar). Unfortunately, the lunchbox goes to retiring insurance claims clerk and widower Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan), who loves the food and falls in love with her via a series of notes, as does Ila.

It is a long-distance relationship — for much of the film neither lead character is in the same room, nor does the aunt appear on screen. The alienation of contemporary Mumbai is evident — all those lonely people etc. — and we are prepared for some dark tones, even as we can’t seriously contemplate the happy ending you would expect. But the film is more gripping than a series of shots of people reading notes might suggest.

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