The miracle of order amid chaos that is the system of tiffin meals is the basis of a lightweight but very charming romantic comedy.
Tiffins are the meals, in steel bowls clipped together, that are ferried by an army of workers called dabbawallas from restaurants or homes to the office workers of Mumbai.
The system's efficiency is legendary, but the premise here is a lunch gets delivered to the wrong person and we all know what they say about the way to a man's heart.
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The woman preparing the lunchbox is Ila (Kaur), married and keen to impress her jaded husband with her cooking, in the hope of overcoming his indifference to her. But because of a mix-up, her food is delivered to Sajaan (Khan), a widower accountant nearing retirement. Ila's husband gets the restaurant meal meant for Khan.
The idea that a dabbawalla would make a mistake is improbable; that he would do so twice is unthinkable. But the film's premise is that the error, once realised, is allowed to continue. The relationship that develops, which starts with exchanges of notes secreted in the tiffins, presses all the light-romance buttons - adding a soupcon of delicious food for good measure.
The two principals, especially the veteran Khan, are wonderful, working well together even though they never share a scene. And director Batra, who wrote the screenplay, injects just the right amount of humour into the subplots: Ila's upstairs neighbour (Achrekar), who is never seen, offers delightfully earthy advice in a cackle and ingredients in a basket lowered on a string, and Sajaan has to train a keen-as-mustard new workmate (Siddiqui) who tests his composure and humanity.
For all that, this is not a comedy that delivers its humour broadly or a romance that seeks to induce a swoon; it has a restrained, even melancholic tone that dilutes its essential sentimentalism. There's a lot to be said for that.
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Bharati Achrekar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Director: Ritesh Batra
Running time: 101 mins
Rating: PG In English and Hindi with English subtitles
Verdict: Undemanding but charming