The Lunchbox, written and directed by Ritesh Batra, is a sort of love story set in contemporary Mumbai. Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a youngish wife and mother of a small daughter, is married to inattentive Rajeev (Nakul Vaid). In order to rejuvenate their marriage, Ila cooks her husband a delicious lunch and sends it to him at his place of work along with a note. (I gather it is common in India to have meals delivered from home or a restaurant to the workplace.) The delivery man mistakenly delivers it to another, older man, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan). Khan eats the meal, reads the note, and sends a note in reply. Though she hesitates, Ila continues to send lunches and notes to Khan, and a correspondence develops.
This “virtual” relationship–by low-tech means–becomes important to both of them. The secondary plot of a new employee Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), set to be Khan’s replacement after his approaching retirement, adds to the development of Khan’s character but also diverts from the main plot and thus makes it less intense than it could be.
The film is a well-acted, quietly done drama with bits of often charming humor. Though the set-up for the plot is a bit far-fetched, the psychological portraits of Ila and Khan become believable.The film does not entirely escape the almost inevitable sentimental cliche of an older man rejuvenated and softened by a younger woman, but it ultimately turns out not to be a completely typical May-December romantic tale.
Despite certain weaknesses, The Lunchbox is an intelligent, subtle drama of some depth.