The Lunchbox (2013) starring Irrfan Khan

Viewer comments:

…this gentle and thoughtful director shows human nature running a very natural course.

It had humor, seriousness, lessons, insight, beauty, love, family, decision-making, sadness, reflections, invisibleness, self-doubt, invention, perseverance, respect, aging, determination, coming to terms when enough is enough and genuine affection in how feelings grew by words alone…


Here is the perfect film (from a first-time director) for smart/sensitive viewers who want an alternative to Bollywood.  Neglected middle-class housewife/mother, Ila (Nimrat Kaur), yearns to win back the attention and love of her husband Rajeev, one of the many strivers in the new India.  Rajeev barely looks at Ila, is glued to his cell, and often comes home late at night.  With the help of her (unseen) upstairs neighbor, she creates delicious (vegetarian, as she’s Hindu) recipes, and packs them in his tiffin (lunchbox). 


This lunchbox is supposed to be picked up each afternoon and delivered (via rickshaw, truck, and bus) to his office.  However, it goes to a Sajaan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan from The Namesake, Life of Pi, etc.), a lonely/Christian government accountant just a month away from retirement.  He likes the food, so an empty lunchbox is delivered back to Ila.  Feeling appreciated, she decided to write him a thank-you letter. 


The two lonely people begin a correspondence, bringing (much-needed) hope and optimism into each other’s lives.  They share thoughts in their letters that no one else knows, from the mundane to the deeply personal.  Are they just pen pals?  Or is there possibility for more?   


Saajan is dreading retirement, and postpones the training of his replacement, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a younger Muslim man eager to learn/succeed. I enjoyed the slow reveal of Shaikh’s life- he’s got a fascinating story under that big grin.  His character’s struggles and yearnings embody that of many modern, urban men.  Siddiqui (still in his 30s), played a pivotal role in Midnight’s Children, and is an actor to watch.   Nimrat Kaur is very easy to relate to; I’d never seen her before.  She had a make-under for this role; she’s a very glamorous woman in real life.  Irrfan Khan continues to (quietly) create magic- he simply becomes the character!  He still has a long career ahead (only in his mid-40s).  This  is a must-see!     


3 thoughts on “The Lunchbox (2013) starring Irrfan Khan

  1. My 2 gal pals thought she left Rajeev & made her own life (maybe in Bhutan). I’m more of a pessimist, & I think she stayed w/ Rajeev. The ending is V open-ended!


    • you may have influenced me, I found myself thinking, if she’s so traditional she will stick with Rajeev — but awful that the movie doesn’t tell you. I guess that means the story sticks with you a good long time.


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