The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The Lunchbox: easily digested, with the right amount of spice and full of local flavour

with 14 comments

the lunchbox
In theory I think of myself as someone who likes Bollywood movies.

There might be a bit of vanity involved in this, even if I never would admit it to you. A fling for Bollywood makes your film buff persona a little bit more interesting, doesn’t it? You’re not someone who settles for the standard repertoire in theatres. You’re prepared to go long way to find new and exciting movies. You’ve got a taste of your own.

In reality my attempts to approach Bollywood have been so and so. A few years ago I went to an Indian film festival in my city and watched three films ranging from bad to so insufferably horrible that I had to use all my willpower not to flee halfway through.

I’ve seen a couple of Indian movies that I’ve liked. Monsoon Wedding and Bride & Prejudice are both charming, full of colour and dance and irresistible joy. But I’m not sure they count as “real” Bollywood films, since the directors have careers in US respective UK. Probably I can’t take credit for it.

Smells and tastes like India
Now I’ve seen another movie, The Lunchbox, with at least a partly Indian origin. (IMDb says it comes from “India/France/Germany/US). I’m honestly not sure if you rightfully can categorize it as “Bollywood”. They speak Hindi in it, but also English, swapping back and forward without any explanation. Perhaps that’s the way they speak in Mumbai, I have no idea. There’s no dancing. Don’t they dance in all Bollywood movies?

In any case this film takes place in Mumbai and every inch of it smells and tastes and feels like India, the way I imagine it (I’ve only been in Goa, so my knowledge is limited to say the least). It’s a film about food, love and living your life at its full potential. It’s the cinematic illustration to the saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

I don’t think they ever could make a remake of this, because the whole plot revolves around circumstances that only exist in India, or more precisely in Mumbai. I had never heard of this before, but apparently they have an intricate delivery system for lunch distribution in place there. According to Wikipedia the system “collects hot food in lunch boxes from the residences of workers in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace utilizing various modes of transport, predominantly bicycles and railway trains, and returns the empty boxes back to the customer’s residence that afternoon”. What happens in the film is that a lunchbox by mistake is delivered to a different person than it was intended for. The receiver is a lonely man who turns out to love the cooking of the unhappy housewife a lot more than her husband does and they start to communicate with each other through paper notes in the box.

Glimpses of life in Mumbai
I thought that The Lunchbox was quite delicious. To use food vocabulary: it’s easy to digest, on the light side, but nevertheless rich in flavour. It gives glimpses of life in Mumbai that appear realistic to me. While we never get to see the huge slum area in the city, it’s definitely not a tourist commercial. It gives an image of how middleclass Indians live. Watching it is a little bit like travelling, though it only lasts for an hour and a half.

What also made it enjoyable was also that it’s pretty nuanced and not at all as overly sentimental as some of the Indian movies I’ve seen previously. The connection that is initiated with the wrongly delivered lunchbox is fairy tale-esque, but the movie takes a direction that is more low key and ambiguous than the standard romantic movie.

In short, this is a little gem that I recommend you to see if you get the chance. With all the hamburger movies we have on our menu it’s nice to get a curry once in a while.

The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra 2013) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

July 24, 2014 at 11:45 pm

Posted in The Lunchbox

14 Responses

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  1. Many thanks for the headsup. As you say, Bollywood movies are very hit and miss, mainly miss, so recommendations are always valuable. Ones that I’ve enjoyed a lot, for various different reasons, include Krrish (2006), Lagaan (2001; nominated for an Oscar), Red Swastik (2007), There Was a Beautiful Girl (2004) and Saat Khoon Maaf (2011) . . . for what that’s worth!


    July 25, 2014 at 12:01 am

    • Thank you for your recommendations! Lagaan is a name that I’ve heard many times. The other ones are knew to me. I’ll look out for them. If I’m lucky they’ll run this Indian film event in my city again and I’ll get the chance to see more Bollywood movies on a big screen.


      July 25, 2014 at 12:05 am

      • Oh, and I meant to say also that the two you mention are among those Bollywood outings I’ve enjoyed. In both those cases, though, it was a matter of my wife diligently overcoming my reservations and forcing me to watch them. 🙂


        July 25, 2014 at 12:16 am

  2. I am not sure why it comes from India/France/Germany/US, maybe because they made some tie ups to take it international, but The Lunchbox is as Indian as a film can get. It is not a typical Bollywood film, sure, but it is still very much Indian film. Glad you liked it. 🙂


    July 25, 2014 at 5:22 am

    • It definitely feels Indian to me. I take it from this that you liked it too. I’m happy to spread the word about it. Actually it’s been running for quite a while in my local theatre, so I suspect that it has been fairly successful in Sweden.


      July 25, 2014 at 7:40 am

  3. Nice review. I liked this film, although I didn’t thibk it was anything extraordinary. It was too light for my taste, but the best thing was getting to understand the intricate lunchbox system.


    July 25, 2014 at 7:52 am

    • I agree it’s not extraordinary, but for being a light movie, it’s delightful so to say. Sometimes fluffy is fine. And yes, that lunchbox system is fantastic. But I can’t help wondering what’s wrong about microwave ovens. They do have electricity…


      July 25, 2014 at 7:58 am

      • Yeah, not my favorite, but definitely enjoyable. And yes, the lunchbox system seems awfully complicated!


        July 26, 2014 at 10:44 pm

  4. The Lunchbox was the finest movie of year 2013 from Indian Cinema [ for this movie i can use the genre : Indian Indie ! ] & iv’e written a descriptive post on it [ if you wanna go though that : however it’s been written in my native language , so you can’t understand it 🙂 Link : ]

    I am Happy that you saw this film & liked it 🙂 Nirav / India .


    July 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

    • Thank you for dropping by here! You’re an expert in this, so i tried to run your post through Google Translate, but I’m afraid the result was just gibberish. Perhaps Google doesn’t get enough pracitice in your language (which apparently isn’t hindi, but I asked Google to guess and it came up with something.)


      July 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      • Yes , i blog in my native language ‘ Gujarati ‘ [ Hindi is our national language . ] & as gujarati is one of the hardest language to understand & to translate ,that’s why that gibberish happened 😉

        Thanks for dropping at my blog 🙂


        July 26, 2014 at 7:31 am

  5. The food vocabulary works awesomely here! Great post, Jessica, I’m excited to see this one!


    July 25, 2014 at 6:50 pm

  6. I’ve watched this movie yesterday and really felt like eating Chicken Tikka Massala after it. I also liked it quite a bit. Then again, I’ve got a weakness for those unfulfilled romance stories like Before Sunset.

    Also been wondering why there are no more updates on the site. Stopped watching movies or stopped writing?

    Regards from Belgium.


    November 6, 2015 at 7:04 pm

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