The Lunchbox (2013) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.

  • The film, set in Mumbai, revolves around a mistaken delivery by the Dabbawalas (lunchbox service) of Mumbai, which leads to a relationship between Saajan, a lonely widower close to retirement, and Ila, an unhappy housewife, as they start exchanging notes through the daily lunchbox.

  • In Mumbai, the lonely widower Saajan Fernandes works in the accounting department of a company and is near retirement. He is assigned to train his replacement Shaikh, who is a needy orphan. One day, Fernandes mistakenly receives the lunchbox prepared by the housewife Ila to her estranged husband Rajeev and Fernandes believes that the restaurant where he buys his food improved the meal. On the next day, he receives a note from Ila inside the lunchbox and they begin to correspond to each other. Ila suspects that her husband is having a love affair and everyday Fernandes and Ila become anxious to read the note from the other. One day, Ila invites Fernandes to meet her in a restaurant. What will be their reactions in the encounter?

  • By an improbable mix-up in the infallible lunch-box delivery system of the famous Mumbai Dabbawalas, two perfect strangers--the lonesome middle-aged widower, Saajan Fernandes, and the young but unhappy housewife, Ila--unexpectedly, will find their lives delightfully entangled. And just like that, when Ila's elaborate menus intended to win back her husband's affection mistakenly reach Saajan, a series of hand-written lunch-box messages explaining the situation will gradually prepare the ground for a true friendship, and a genuinely intriguing interest. However, are the two long-distance friends courageous enough to take the first and most crucial step in their relationship?

  • He pays for his lunch to be delivered at work from a local restaurant, but his order is mixed with a meal prepared by Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a housewife who thought she was making lunch for her husband. When he eats every bite of the incorrectly delivered lunch, Ila asks her husband about her success, but his response convinces her that her hubby never got the food she prepared. Ila puts a note in the next lunch, and soon she and Saajan develop a pen-pal relationship..


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) is a widower who is about to retire from his job as an accountant. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a young wife seeking her husband's (Nakul Vaid) attention and looking for ways to put romance back into her marriage, one of which is to cook delicious food for him. Through a rare mix-up of the complicated food delivery system that picks up and delivers lunches from restaurants or homes to people at work of Mumbai, the lunchbox Ila prepares for her husband gets delivered, instead, to Saajan. Ila eventually realizes the mistake and with the advice of her neighbor aunt (Bharti Achrekar - voice only) living in the apartment above her, writes a letter to Saajan about the mix up and places it in the lunchbox (along with her husband's favorite meal) the next day.

    An exchange of the messages sent back and forth with the lunches ignites a friendship between the two, as they share memories and events of their own individual lives. At work, Saajan is tasked with training his replacement, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an orphan whose incompetence initially annoys Saajan, who is already socially distant since his wife's death. Saajan and Shaikh gradually get to know each other better and strike a close friendship as well. At one point, Saajan saves Shaikh's job by covering for his blatant mistakes on pay orders and he also becomes his best man at his wedding with Mehrunissa (Shruti Bapna).

    At home, Ila finds out that her husband is having an affair and she begins to give up hope on her marriage. In one of the lunchbox letters, she suggests moving to Bhutan where the cost of living is much less than in India. Saajan writes back suggesting that the two move there together. Ila then offers to meet in person at a popular food joint, but at the appointed time Saajan doesn't turn up. Upon receiving an empty lunchbox the next day, Saajan writes back to the dejected Ila and apologizes, saying that he did arrive and saw her from a distance but couldn't approach her. He explains how young and beautiful she looked, while surmising that he is too old for her and advising her to move on.

    Some time later, Ila's father, battling with lung cancer, dies in her mother's care. After her mother (Lilette Dubey) confesses how unhappy her marriage was, Ila decides to search for Saajan, but then learns from Shaikh that he has already retired and headed to Nasik. She writes a last farewell message to Saajan announcing that she has decided to leave her husband and move to Bhutan with her young daughter.

    Meanwhile, Saajan changes his mind en route to Nasik, returning to Mumbai and going in search of Ila - who is last seen at home waiting for her daughter to return from school - as he gets help from the same food delivery service which regularly picked up and delivered the lunchbox.

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