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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Lunchbox

Misdelivered lunch develops into romance between strangers

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2013; Dabba, Hindi and English) Overly protective of her young daughter Yashvi, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) prepares a lunchbox for her husband Rajeev, which she sends by Dabbawalas (lunchbox-delivery service) into Mumbai, transported by bicycle then train. However, by mistake it arrives at the desk of Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) in the claims department of a company.

After he consumes what he thinks has been prepared by a food service, for he is a widower, he sends the four compartments back. When Ila receives the completely empty lunchbox, she tells Auntie, who resides in the flat above, of the good news, indicative of improving relations. After informing the food service that he will be retiring in one month and thus requesting cancellation of further deliveries after then, Saajan compliments the food-service personnel: "Maintain the same standard."

Following 35 years of dedicated service, not once making a mistake, Saajan is ready to take early retirement; but before he departs he's to train his replacement, Aslam Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an affable, gregarious young man who has been to Saudi Arabia. From her husband's remark that the lunch was good, especially the cauliflower, Ila realizes that Rajeev did not eat from the lunchbox she sent. When Rajeev, a busy man, is home, he stares at his phone, ignoring his wife.

After consulting Auntie, who assures Ila that "Deliverymen never make a mistake," Ila writes a note on Auntie's advice. A reply is returned with the empty lunchbox: "the food was very salty today." A correspondence between complete strangers ensues in director/writer Ritesh Batra's poignant, romantic drama in which one expresses appreciation for being allowed inside another's dreams.

"What do we live for?" asks Ila. "There are too many people, and everyone wants what the other has," Saajan (without revealing his name) answers, describing how he must always stand on trains and buses, unlike in the past, for though his wife was buried in a horizontal plot, his will be vertical. Rajeev tells Ila not to send him cauliflower every day because it gives him gas.

Looking forward to the aroma of the lunchbox but hearing that a mother and her daughter jumped to their death from a building, Saajan fears the worst for Ila and Yashvi. Ila's brother committed suicide. Above Ila, Auntie has been taking care of her comatose husband for fifteen years.

Having been reticent and rude toward Shaikh - once confessing (though in jest) that he'd kicked an old blind man into the path of a bus for chattering too much - Saajan eventually takes an interest in the gregarious young man, even sharing his lunch. Shaikh invites Saajan to his abode for a meal of pasandas (lamb) and to meet his beloved Mehrunnisa.

Ila suspects Rajeev is being unfaithful to her. She visits her mother; her father is dying of cancer. She tries to discourage Saajan from his habit of smoking. Saajan relates how he believes he saw himself in an artist's painting, which led to his revisiting an old neighborhood for the first time in many years.

"Where would I go?" questions Ila, confessing she hasn't the courage to confront Rajeev about his having an affair. Yashvi says that in school she learned about Bhutan where "everyone is happy." Saajan writes back: "What if I came to Bhutan with you?"

Fantasizing, his mood improves. Shaikh, an orphan, tells Saajan what his "mother" said: "The wrong train will get you to the right station." Ila proposes: "I think it's time for us to meet." Complications, unfortunately, intervene.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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