A standout in the Cannes Critics Week that has already generated potent word of mouth, The Lunchbox is a charming first feature that describes denizens of the sprawling Mumbai metropolis in a tender, ingenious tale of romance by correspondence. Instead of using modern social media, the virtual couple meets through a lunchbox mix-up that could only happen in India. What is most endearing is the delicacy with which writer-director Ritesh Batra reveals the hopes, sorrows, regrets and fears of everyday people without any sign of condescension or narrative trickery.
Khan, Kaur and Siddique deliver first-rate, nuanced performances. The cinematography wonderfully captures the rhythms of Mumbai's people and their emotional lives, and the editing keeps a gentle pace. The music offers a rousing finale with the dabbawallas' prayers over the staccato of the train's wheels. Some may be disappointed by the ambiguous end. Yet, it is imbued with a poignancy that lingers, along with the lovely line: sometimes, even the wrong train can take you to the right destination.
All the characters have been defined nicely by the debutant director. From the train sequences to how the dabbawallahs work and then linking the Hindu Ila with the Christian Fernandes and the Muslim Shaikh, first-time filmmaker Ritesh Batra has captured the real essence of diverse Bombay beautifully in the film.
As far as acting is concerned, Irrfan plays the part of a lonely old man effortlessly. Nimrat and Nawazuddin are flawless in this old-world charm, unconventional love story.