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The Lunchbox: Blu-ray + DVD Review

The Lunchbox (Dabba) (2014) movie poster The Lunchbox (Dabba)

US Theatrical Release: February 28, 2014 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Ritesh Batra

Cast: Irrfan Khan (Saajan Fernandes), Nimrat Kaur (Ila), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Aslam Shaikh), Lillete Dubey (Ila's Mother), Nakul Vaid (Rajeev), Bharati Achrekar (voice of Auntie Deshpande), Yashvi Puneet Nagar (Yashvi), Denzil Smith (Mr. Shroff), Shruti Bapna (Meherunissa), Nasir Khan (Ila's Father), Lokesh Raj (Dukes Owner), Vidhya Dhar (Old Man in Train), Sadashiv kondaji Pokarkar (Dabbawallah at Ila's House)

Buy The Lunchbox from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD

With appearances in Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire,
and The Amazing Spider-Man, Irrfan Khan has easily emerged as the Indian actor most familiar to modern American moviegoers. To these supporting turns, Khan adds the lead role in The Lunchbox, by far the best-attended foreign film in US theaters this year.

The feature debut of writer-director Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox tells the story of a strong, deep friendship formed between two strangers in a most unlikely way. Saajan Fernandes (Khan) is about to retire after 35 dutiful years in a government claims department. The quiet, childless widower has his day brightened when his usual subpar restaurant-made lunch delivery is replaced by a meal intended for someone else. Saajan enjoys the spicy, savory lunch in full.

In the Indian film "The Lunchbox", Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) receives handwritten notes inside his misdelivered home-cooked lunches.

Returned, the emptied 5-piece Thermos-like silver container is a welcome sight for Ila (Nimrat Kaur). The thirtysomething mother of one young daughter has cooked the meal for her husband Rajeev (Nakul Vaid), but "aloof" doesn't even begin to describe him, as he barely looks at her these days. Ila prepares Rajeev's favorite meal the next day, knowing it probably won't go to him. It doesn't. While Rajeev's mistaking a restaurant's cauliflower for home cooking, Saajan is excited to enjoy his aromatic parcel as soon as it arrives at his desk.

This second misdelivered meal includes a short note from its maker and receives a response, opening a line of conversation between these two perfect strangers. Before long, Saajan is confiding in Ila about his way of remembering his wife and Ila is revealing she suspects her husband is cheating on her. Connected by flavorful food that is prepared and appreciated with love, the two consider starting a new life together in impoverished Bhutan, though they will first have to meet each other in person.

In addition to this blind romance, a primitive riff on You've Got Mail hedging on India's apparently common and longstanding hot lunch delivery service, we see Saajan slowly but surely warm to Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the chatty replacement he's supposed to train in.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is the mystery woman preparing Saajan's lunches with an assortment of spices and love. Saajan's replacement Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) drops some knowledge on him during a typically cramped train ride.

The Lunchbox is a potent first effort from Mr. Batra. It is both a feel-good, universal escapist romantic fantasy and a realistic product of its time reflecting what it's like to live and work in Mumbai today. Funny and poignant, it sympathizes with and nicely develops all three of its lead characters: Ila, the unappreciated housewife;
Saajan, the hard worker upon whom old age is creeping up (Khan is playing older than his 47 years); and Shaikh, the happy, friendly man with no family who's not qualified for his new job.

Almost half of the dialogue is uttered in English, the language Saajan converses in at work and on the street. The epistolary structure allows for fitting exposition and Batra navigates the potentially saccharine terrain with efficiency and confidence beyond his years and minimal short film experience.

Earning a little over $4 million from just 165 North American theaters from late winter into spring, The Lunchbox was quite successful for a foreign film. Embraced by the public and almost universally praised by critics, this is the kind of film you might well expect to compete for the Foreign Language Film Oscar. Alas, that ship has sailed, with India's selection committee instead opting to submit The Good Road for last year's competition (a choice divisive enough to inspire a 3-paragraph "Oscar selection controversy" section on Lunchbox's Wikipedia entry). As usual, the nation failed to garner a nomination in the category.

A Sony Pictures Classics release, The Lunchbox is now available to own in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.

The Lunchbox: Blu-ray + DVD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Hindi/English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Hindi/English, English Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $40.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Lunchbox looks terrific on Blu-ray, its nice 2.40:1 photography remaining sharp and spotless throughout. The disc's 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix, billed as Hindi but as stated above including a good amount of English, is very lively, springing to life with train and car sounds emphasizing the crowded bustle of Mumbai. On by default, the clean, white player-generated subtitles translate all the dialogue, both Hindi and English (which you don't mind), and oddly even a Welcome mat as well.

A North American trailer is the only video bonus feature joining "The Lunchbox" on Blu-ray and DVD. Sony opts for a basic, static but scored menu screen on both Blu-ray and DVD.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On each disc, The Lunchbox is joined by just two bonus features. First and foremost is an audio commentary by writer/director Ritesh Batra.

Batra, born and raised in Mumbai but receiving his college education in the US, speaks in English with a light accent and the passion but not overexcitement of a first-time filmmaker and commentator. He reveals the project began as a documentary of the lunch delivery system before taking shape. He covers the appropriate bases, from casting to filming challenges to the bilingualism. Welcoming viewer interpretation (as in whether the delivery is a mistake or a miracle), Batra also devotes plenty of thought to what he still calls Bombay, a place he left for twelve years but now calls home again after filming this there, a city he feels the character of Shaikh embodies.

We also kindly get the film's North American theatrical trailer (2:05, HD on Blu-ray), something Sony Pictures Classics is great about including.

The discs open with Sony's "Be Moved" promo and trailers for Wadjda, Fill the Void, Tim's Vermeer, The Past, and Blue Jasmine. All are repeated by the menus' Previews listing.

The basic menu offers a scored, static reworking of the cover art, itself adapted from the US poster design. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks and also lets you resume playback.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the full color Blu-ray and plain silver DVD inside the ordinary side-snapped keepcase.

Saajan (Irrfan Khan) is the only family Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has at his colorful wedding to Meherunissa (Shruti Bapna).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Lunchbox is an appealing film that turns the far-fetched premise of a romantic comedy into a moving human character study. It's a good enough movie I would be happy to see getting Academy Award recognition, although that cannot happen now.

Sony's combo pack isn't cheap and is light on bonus features, but it does treat the film to a terrific feature presentation and a solid commentary.

Buy The Lunchbox from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD

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Related Reviews:
New: 2 Autumns, 3 Winters Winter's Tale The Jewish Cardinal Tanta Agua
Irrfan Khan: The Darjeeling Limited New York, I Love You The Amazing Spider-Man
Foreign Films: Amour Wadjda The Past Babette's Feast The Great Beauty Rust & Bone
Asian Cinema: A Common Man Shall We Dance? (1997) 3 Idiots Bride & Prejudice

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Reviewed July 4, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Sony Pictures Classics, UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Dar Motion Pictures, Rohfilm, Cine Mosaic, A.S.A.P. Films, Sikhya Entertainment
and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.