On Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They say it right – I agree with them and Mr. Sajan Fernandes too will agree with them. But Mr. Fernandes has nobody who will want to reach his heart through his stomach. He eats alone; travels alone; works alone and stays alone. He unintentionally glances out at his saamne wali khidki every night after eating home delivered food while he smokes a cigarette from his balcony. That family dines together every night with children running here and there; loud discussions and noise all over. There is a small girl who notices Mr. Fernandes and closes windows. Mr. Fernandes’ house is exactly opposite of them – yes literally too.

Meri Ammi hamesha kaha karti thi ke kabhi kabhi galat train bhi sahi jaga pohocha deti hai, says Sheikh who has been newly recruited to replace Mr. Fernandes who Is about to retire in a month. When Mr. Fernandes gets a delicious  dabba one fine day, he goes and praises the hotel guy who prepares the dabba for him every day; but that dabba is Ila’s – for her husband.

... and the conversations through the dabba start. The movie is a fusion of two hungry souls; hungry for good food to eat and people to talk their hearts out to.

We all want someone to talk to and share memories otherwise we forget them, Mr. Fernandes writes in one of the letters to Ila. Ila is with her husband and her daughter but her house is as mute as Mr. Fernandes’.

The dabba plays an important role in stuffing two people into his life – Ila and Sheikh. This is very stupid of me but; in this scene where Mr. Fernandes opens his dabba and is reading the letter – barely a line into it, Sheikh comes there and starts asking something – I pause the movie. There I was in front Mr. Fernandes on that table where he had just opened his dabba, so engrossed in that letter that Sheikh was just a third person who had disturbed me as badly as he disturbed Mr. Fernandes.

Mr. Fernandes’ journey through the film goes from being lonely to having happy conversations and happy relations with people around him. As the movie ends, even that little girl in his samne wali khidki does not shut down windows but waves out to him. The movie doesn’t concentrate on material factors like grand sets, exotic location and colourful people everywhere. It ponders over the layers of the most important part of the story - the characters.


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