The Lunchbox is a delicacy with a lingering aftertaste, so piquantly layered that it will leave you pondering. It’s food for thought, an ambrosial blend of palatable camaraderies, epistolary romance, and a sprinkle of Saudade an intricate longing for lost love. We all know Saajan, Ila, and Sheikh, so let me introduce you to the hidden protagonist of the film Food. It’s there for your acute observance, to find.
Though visually the lunchboxes are crammed in together, the ones who consume them are ironically living emotionally distant lives, and hence, the theme of Isolation the central motif of the film. The Basket of Spices – It’s the bridge that connects Ila and Deshpande aunty, acting as a cushion to their secluded lives.
The bewildered gaze of Saajan at the foreign lunchbox the luster, the placement of hooks, and most importantly the aroma, alongside Ila’s amazement on feeling the weight of an empty lunchbox a sense of appreciation she craves for. This is the first point, where their monotonous routines dissolve and marks the forthcoming change in their lives. The regular Aloo-Gobhi (a curry mix of potatoes and cauliflower) represents their humdrum lives, an expression for boredom.
The warm pieces of fluffy bread, ie, Rotis metaphorically protect their letters from the cold anguish of their lives. The letters are always placed in the lower tiers of the metal lunchbox. This adds the element of anticipation, expectancy, and excitement, For Saajan, the lunchtime and for Ila, the evening returns by the Dabbawalllah – both of these times serve as a momentary escape from their solitary lives.
Ila prepares Paneer Kofta for Saajan, it’s her husband’s favorite recipe too. This denotes her growing affection towards this platonic bond – an onset of replacement and also a sense of gratitude, the one she longs for. If you closely observe, the food is garnished with a dash of coriander at times – something highly unlikely to be found in a three-tier regular metal lunchbox. This reveals Ila’s special concern and care for Saajan.
The fruits like banana and apples signify the factor of affordability: that a vast population can’t afford a sumptuous meal in the urban jungle – Bombay. Sheikh chops vegetables, while on a commute. This represents his defiance of gender roles in the patriarchal society we live in – an expression of his love for Mehrunisa.
Nothing is fortuitous in this film. It’s the director’s deception, more and more is left to be deciphered. This protagonist doesn’t speak, it whistles through pressure cookers. It doesn’t act, it has an aroma. Like I said all you need is an eye, an eye for the detail – the taste, textures, and whistles.