First Hit: A truly touching romantic film where the written word is the agent for change.
A lonely Mumbai wife tries to lure her husband into a more intimate and caring relationship by making him fantastic lunches which are picked up at her home and delivered to him by the infamous dabbawala which never makes mistakes.
However, Ila’s (Nimrat Kaur) lunches are being delivered to Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) an aging accounts clerk in a large Mumbai government agency. His wife is gone, he’s alone and he’s about to retire. Ila figures out that her lunches are not being received by her husband and ends up writing a note and putting it in the dabba (the container for the food).
Saajan gets the notes and responds harshly in the second note by saying “too much salt”. Ila begins to create more exotic lunches with the help of her “Auntie”. The note writing becomes more involved with them both sharing more of whom they are with the other.
Through this extended exchange, Ila becomes stronger by making a decision she needs to leave her husband who is having an affair. And Saajan becomes softer and less jaded to life by befriending Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) a younger, happy, and annoying man who is charged with taking over the retiring Saajan. This film evolves the characters in a very subtle way and the hook is that you root for everyone while not making this story over melancholy or artificially sweetened.
Kaur is divine. Her stoic look interspersed with her sweet beauty is perfect of the newer Indian woman who is willing to stretch her wings. Khan is sublime as the aging lonely repressed man at the twilight of his working career. As he slowly unfolds his own softness the audience is drawn into this complex person. Siddiqui is perfect as the happy enterprising man selected to take Saajan’s place at work. His annoying enthusiasm is a perfect foil to Saajan’s deeper brooding presence. Ritesh Batra wrote and directed this exquisite film. He accurately captures India, their transportation system(s), and the feel and the culture of a major Indian city. The story is subtle, yet wonderfully obvious and universal.
Overall: I truly loved and enjoyed this film.