~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Rated PG; 105 minutes
In Hindi w/subtitles
Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer (excerpted)
'What do we live for?" is the question that pops up in The Lunchbox,, a romance set in Mumbai. The first feature from Ritesh Batra, aims to offer a meaningful answer: We live, ideally, for love. I'd like to add that we also live for movies as exquisite and exciting, as exotic and inviting, as this one.
The story pivots on a fascinating system that keeps India's workforce going in its most populous city: an army of more than 5,000 delivery men, known as dabbawallahs. Every morning, they pick up lunchboxes (dabbas, or tiffins) from the kitchens of Mumbai housewives and take them - by foot, bike, train, and cart - to their husbands' offices and workplaces. The system is so complex, and so efficient, that it was the subject of a Harvard University study. Only one in a million lunchboxes winds up at the wrong address. The Lunchbox is about that one.
Ila (the excellent Nimrat Kaur) is married to a man who is wholly uninterested and disengaged. With encouragement from an upstairs neighbor, Ila begins preparing elaborate lunches - the old saw, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. But by mistake, the dabba is delivered to Saajan (Irrfan Khan; Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi), a sad-eyed widower, an accountant at a big firm. He is surprised by his meal, and doubly surprised when another delicious lunch shows up the next day - with a note from Ila, wondering why her husband hadn't said anything about his repast. Filled with whimsy and wisdom, suspense and surprise, The Lunchbox serves up an unexpected, glorious feast.