The Lunchbox @ The Ross

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) prepares the lunchbox

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) prepares the lunchbox

This winter was bitter if not brutal, and the wind conspired to make our lives miserable from October to March. It was ice-madness in the streets, on the land,… in the air … First-time director Ritesh Batra has made a film called The Lunchbox. Set in Mumbai, the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtraa, The Lunchbox is a story that feels like a golden cup of hearty soup on a blustery winter’s night. It is a gentle narrative about a lunchbox, whose contents contain a hot lunch painstakingly prepared by a housewife named Ila (played by Nimrat Kaur) for her businessman husband Rajeev (played by Nakul Vaid). The camera focuses on Ila’s hands as she sprinkles spices on rice, vegetables, and meat. You can smell the curry, the cardemon, the fennel, the coriander, the masala, the cumin [smell] … What’s more, Ila places a little handwritten ‘love note’ encased in the folds of her handmade naan bread. All of this prepared for Rajeev who has refused to pay attention to his very attentive wife; her artistry in cuisine she uses to conjure him back to her.

Dabbawallahs prepare lunchboxes for delivery

Dabbawallahs prepare lunchboxes for delivery

She gives over her homemade victuals to an employee who works within the Mumbai institution called dabbawallahs, a complex delivery system that involves deliverymen on bicycles who collect from households prepared meals and then carefully load them onto a transit system to businessmen and women who have signed up for this service. Ila’s meal not only is delivered to the wrong address; her food potion lands on the desk of Saajan ( played by Irrfan Khan), a widowed accountant who is not her husband.

Saajan (Kirrfan Khan) reads 'love note'

Saajan (Kirrfan Khan) reads ‘love note’

Ritesh Batra uses such simple notions of everyday art to visually anoint his film. When was the last time you opened a letter? When was the last time you sent one? When was the last time you released the message from the envelope, unfolded it with your fingers, held it in your hands, and found the right spot to sit and read it? Nostalgic isn’t it? Batra will have you longing for those days of yore when people took the time to think about you on paper, and not in the cyperspace of e-mail and text messaging.

Ila and Saajan innocently connect by way of the written word read in the privacy of one’s own room over a sumptuous meal prepared especially … especially …. These are the things that will keep you warm on a winter’s night, just by seeing the script written by the hand who salutes you as “Dear …”

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The Lunchbox plays through May 8 at the Ross Media Arts Center.

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