The Lunchbox

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The Lunchbox
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRitesh Batra
Written byRitesh Batra
Produced by
CinematographyMichael Simmonds
Edited byJohn F. Lyons
Music byMax Richter
Sony Pictures Classics
UTV Motion Pictures
Dharma Productions
DAR Motion Pictures
Essel Vision Productions
Sikhya Entertainment
The Match Factory
ASAP Films
Arte France Cinema
Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg
Aide Aux Cinemas Du Monde
Ministre Des Affairs Etrangeres
Insituit Francais
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics (North America)[1]
UTV Motion Pictures
NFP Marketing & Distribution
Happiness Distribution
Release dates
  • 19 May 2013 (2013-05-19) (Cannes)
  • 20 September 2013 (2013-09-20) (India)
Running time
105 Minutes
United States
Budget22 crore[3]
Box office₹110 crore (est.)

The Lunchbox is a 2013 drama film written and directed by Ritesh Batra. Produced by Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap and Arun Rangachari, The Lunchbox is an international co-production of studios in India, the US, Germany and France. It stars Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur alongside Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bharti Achrekar and Nakul Vaid in supporting roles.

The Lunchbox was screened at International Critics' Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d'Or. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released in theatres in India on 20 September 2013. The Lunchbox was a box-office success and received unanimous critical acclaim. It was Khan's highest-grossing Hindi film, until it was surpassed by Hindi Medium (2017). The Lunchbox was nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language at the 2015 British Academy Film Awards.


In Mumbai, Ila is a young wife seeking her husband Rajeev's attention. She tries to put romance back into her marriage by cooking delicious lunches for him. However, when she tries to send the lunchbox to his office, the dabbawala system which is to deliver his lunch has a mix-up, and the lunchbox accidentally reaches Saajan Fernandes instead. Saajan is a widower who is about to retire from his accountancy job. When Ila realises the mistake she writes a letter to Saajan informing him of the mix-up and places it in the lunchbox the next day. An exchange of messages between Ila and Saajan via the lunches thus ensues, igniting a friendship between the two, as they share memories and events from their lives.

At his job, Saajan is tasked with training his replacement Aslam Sheikh. Socially distant after his wife's death, Saajan is initially reluctant to interact with Sheikh and train him. After Sheikh reveals that he is an orphan who taught himself accounting, Saajan gradually warms to him; eventually the duo strike a close friendship. At one point, Saajan saves Shaikh's job by covering for his blatant mistakes and becomes his best man at his marriage. Meanwhile, after Ila finds out that Rajeev is having an affair, she gives up hope on rekindling her marriage. In one of the lunchbox letters, she suggests moving to Bhutan where the cost of living is much cheaper than in India. Saajan writes back suggesting that the two move there together. Ila then offers to meet in person at a popular restaurant but at the appointed time, Saajan does not show up. Upon receiving an empty lunchbox on the next day, Saajan writes back to the dejected Ila and apologises to her, saying that he did arrive and saw her from a distance but could not 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 the care of her mother who confesses how unhappy her marriage was. Ila gets the address of Saajan's office only to learn from Sheikh that he has already retired and headed to Nashik. She writes a last farewell message to Saajan announcing that she has decided to leave Rajeev and move to Bhutan with her young daughter. Meanwhile, Saajan changes his mind and returns to Mumbai. The film ends with Ila waiting for her daughter to return from school and Saajan heading to her house with the dabbawala who regularly picked up and delivered the eponymous lunchbox.




Ritesh Batra, who had made short films, The Morning Ritual, Gareeb Nawaz Ki Taxi and Cafe Regular, Cairo, started researching for a documentary on the famous Lunchbox delivery system of Mumbai, dabbawala, known for their efficiency, however after spending a week with them in 2007, he got to know of many interesting personal stories they would overhear while waiting outside an apartment. This idea gave birth to the idea of the film, and instead of making the documentary he began writing a film script.[4][5] In time the film became a joint production between Sikhya Entertainment, DAR motion pictures, National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC), India, ROH Films, Germany, ASAP Films, France and the Cine Mosaic, US of Lydia Dean Pilcher who previously produced films like, The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) and The Namesake (2007), and Germany's Match Factory became its international sales agent.[6][7]


Batra completed the first draft of the screenplay in 2011.[5] He was assisted by Rutvik Oza.[8] It went on to win an Honorable Jury Mention at the 2012 Cinemart at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Thereafter the project was part of the Talent Project Market of Berlin International Film Festival and was mentored at the screenwriter's lab (Torino Film Lab) at the Torino Film Festival.[7] The character of Ila played by Nimrat Kaur, six months prior to the shooting, and the character played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui was further developed and improvised during shooting.[5]


Irrfan Khan liked the script of the film and the concept of his character, not speaking much but talking through notes. After seeing Batra's short film and a couple of meetings he agreed to act in the film. Batra wanted to work with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, another principal character of the film, for a long time. For the female lead, auditions were conducted, wherein Nimrat Kaur was selected. Kaur had extensive experience at the Mumbai theatre and worked in films like Peddlers.[5][7] Some of the dabbawalas whom the director befriended while researching for the film, also were cast in minor roles.[4]


The film was shot in 2012 in Mumbai[5] at a budget of 220 million. Prior to the filming, the cast rehearsed for six months. It was shot using the Arri Alexa digital film camera.[7] Many of the scenes were logistically broken down to make way for last minute location changes. According to Ritesh Batra, scenes on the train involved the use of only one compartment, and even included actual local commuters when needed.[9]

Principal photography lasted 29 days, with a majority of the film's scenes done in three weeks. Afterwards, footage taken in a documentary manner were shot. Mumbai's famous dabbawalas were provided actual lunchboxes to deliver, and followed by a four-member film crew, which filmed the process in documentary style.[7][10][11]

Release and reception[edit]

Screenings and film festivals[edit]

The film was screened on 19 May 2013 as a part of the International Critics' Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation and positive reviews.[12][13][14] It won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d'Or.[15] Variety called it "a notable debut from tyro helmer-scripter Ritesh Batra", for creating a film with "crossover appeal of Monsoon Wedding", and also praised acting of Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur.[16]

Thereafter, Sony Pictures Classics picked up all North American rights for distribution.[6]

In India, this film was released in more than 400 screens on 20 September 2013.[17][18] In Japan, a Japanese dubbed version of the film was released on 9 August 2014, screening in a hundred theaters.[19]

Box office[edit]

The Lunchbox grossed ₹71 million in its first weekend of release in India,[17][20] and ₹110 million in its first week.[21] The film continued to gross significant amounts over the next few weeks, earning over ₹200 million in the first three weeks and another estimated ₹40–50 lakhs on its fourth weekend.[22]

In the United States, The Lunchbox grossed $4.23 million, and was 2014's third highest grossing foreign film behind Cantinflas and P.K..[23][24] By 28 May 2014, the film's worldwide collection was 84.92 crore.[25] The film's total worldwide gross for the original Hindi version was ₹100.85 crore[3] ($17.24 million).[26] Most of its gross was from overseas with $11.71 million (₹72.602 crore) for the Hindi version, becoming 2013's third highest-grossing Indian film overseas after Dhoom 3 and Chennai Express.[27] It was Irrfan Khan's highest-grossing Hindi film, up until it was surpassed by Hindi Medium (2017).[28]

The Japanese dubbed version, released later in 2014, screened in a hundred theaters for ten weeks. The film grossed over ¥150 million ($1.42 million or ₹8.7 crore) in Japan.[19] Combined, the Hindi and Japanese versions grossed an estimated $13.1 million (₹81.3 crore) overseas and ₹110 crore (US$19 million) worldwide.

Critical reception[edit]

The Lunchbox received widespread critical acclaim from both critics and audiences alike. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 97% of 118 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.08/10. The website's consensus reads, "Warm, affectionate, and sweet but not cloying, The Lunchbox is a clever crowd-pleaser from first-time director Ritesh Batra."[29]

Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 76 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[30]

Critic Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN gave a rating of 5/5 to the film stating, "The greatest love stories are the ones that make you root for the protagonists to come together, despite their destinies. This film illustrates how love transforms the unlikeliest of people."[31] Pratim D. Gupta of The Telegraph gave two thumbs up to The Lunchbox calling it "as much a moving and muted love story as it is an evocative portrayal of loneliness."[32] Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave the movie a 4/5 stating, "A well-told old-fashioned romance, The Lunchbox gracefully unknots the trials, tribulations, fears and hopes of everyday people sans the glamour that the city of Mumbai has become synonymous with."[33] Karan Anshuman of Mumbai Mirror also went with a perfect score of 5/5 saying the film was, "one of the best films to come out of India in a long time."[34]

Raja Sen of praised the film further, giving another perfect score of 5/5 and offered particular compliments to the director Ritesh Batra, stating "Batra, who has also written The Lunchbox, has allowed his smashing actors tremendous room to improvise, all the while himself sketching in nuanced details about the city, its food-ferriers, and the many disparities Mumbai is crammed with."[35] Filmmaker/critic Khalid Mohammed of the Deccan Chronicle said "What stays in the mind at the end of The Lunchbox is pretty much what stays in mind at the end of a memorable set by jazzmen – not their lapses but the heights they scale."[36] Aditya Grover of YouthTimes gave it 4/5 stars and said, "The Lunchbox is delicious and delightful! If you're in the mood to witness genuinely moving cinema, you're in for a treat. The delectable taste of this lunchbox remains in your mouth much after you've left the theatre. Go for it!"[37] Suparna Sharma of The Asian Age gave it 4 out of 5 stars and said: "The Lunchbox is a gently pulsating sweet-sad story of loneliness and love, of wilting spirits finding water again. There are three women in three marriages in this film, of which two are ailing. The third one is over, almost, only the last rites haven't been performed. There are two men in the film – one who has lived a full life and is getting ready to quietly slip off the face of the earth; the other is eager to begin… What's both shocking and soothing is what the film shows us — that it takes very little for a soul to come back to life. Mostly, just a hint of hope will do."[38]

Trisha Gupta in the Sunday Guardian wrote "The Lunchbox is a lovely little film. But it does tick all the boxes that might appeal to festival audiences: quaint Asian urbanism (Mumbai trains, dabba delivery), Indian home-cooking, romance. It provides local colour, without being demandingly untranslatable."[39] In a less positive review for the Chicago Reader, J. R. Jones criticized the film's premise as a gimmick and its purported use of "irritating comic foil" in reference to Nawazuddin Siddiqui's and Bharati Achrekar's characters as Shaikh and Mrs. Deshpande, respectively.[40]

Oscar selection controversy[edit]

The Lunchbox was considered by many people throughout the year to be a lock as India's selection for the 86th Academy Awards Best Foreign Film Category, with many critics enthusiastically praising it and voting for it to be the representative film.[41] Director Karan Johar also put his support behind the film saying "All kinds of audience can connect with it and yet within the parameters of love story it is completely unusual. You feel all the love in the world for the protagonists and the unusual aspect of it is they haven't met."[42]

However, the selection committee of the Film Federation of India (FFI) deliberated on 17 September 2013 and decided to send the Gujarati film The Good Road instead.[43] This decision sparked outrage from many supporters of The Lunchbox, including its cast and crew. The film's producer Anurag Kashyap quickly took to Twitter and expressed his disgust, saying "I don't know who the Federation is, but it goes to show the complete lack of understanding to make films that can travel across borders."[44] He later deleted both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, saying, "this is a moment of defeat for me, and for independent cinema, because, for once, our chances were great."[45] Karan Johar also said he felt very disappointed that such a wonderful chance at Oscar glory with The Lunchbox was spoiled.[46] Guneet Monga, The Lunchbox's other producer, said she was flabbergasted as to how the Federation could select a movie that didn't even have an American distributor, and also listed the number of global festivals and appreciation her film received, concluding that it sadly and supposedly "wasn't enough for the FFI".[47][48][49]

In an interview with Siddharth Sivakumar of Tinpahar, Goutam Ghose, the chairman of the committee revealed:

Personally I liked The Lunchbox very much. But eventually the eighteen member jury supported The Good Road. Now I can say that some people from Bombay felt that the basic premise of The Lunchbox was wrong. Because the Dabbawala never do such mistakes. Films are after all works of fiction, with the right to cinematic liberty! Although The Lunchbox was my personal favourite, but as a chairman one should not impose his or her choice on others. And as you know this became suddenly a big controversy. And I think the media was again to some extent responsible for this decision. Because every day during the deliberation or the screenings, the media projected Lunch Box as the chosen one. It's my assumption, that the members probably thought, "My God! If the media has already taken the decision then why we are here?" It was a Chomskian 'manufacturing consent' – The Lunchbox, The Lunchbox, The Lunchbox every day!! So the members, who are all very important people from the industry, had an opposite impulse. I don't know, but maybe that's the way it happened.[50]

Once it had been submitted to the Oscar selection committee, that committee did not nominate, nor shortlist, The Good Road; that year's Academy Award winner was Italy's The Great Beauty.


Award[a] Date of ceremony[b] Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Asia-Pacific Film Festival 13 – 15 December 2013 Best Film Ritesh Batra Nominated [51]
Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Won
Best Actor Irrfan Khan Nominated
Outstanding Achievement Award Won
Best Actress Nimrat Kaur Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards 15 December 2013 Best Screenplay Ritesh Batra Won [53]
Jury Grand Prize Won
Asian Film Awards 27 March 2014 Best Film The Lunchbox Nominated [54]
Best Actor Irrfan Khan Won
Best Screenwriter Ritesh Batra Won
British Academy Film Awards 8 February 2015 Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated [55]
Dubai International Film Festival 6 – 14 December 2013 Best Film – Feature Anurag Kashyap, Arun Rangachari, Guneet Monga Nominated [56]
Special Mention – Feature Ritesh Batra Won
Best Actor – Feature Irrfan Khan Won
Filmfare Awards 26 January 2014 Best Film (Critics) Ritesh Batra Won [57]
Best Debut Director Won
Best Story Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui Won
Best Editing John F. Lyons Nominated
Best Sound Design Michael Kaczmarek Nominated
Ghent International Film Festival 8 – 19 October 2013 Canvas Audience Award Ritesh Batra Nominated [59]
Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 25 October – 19 November 2013 New Talent Award Nominated [60]
International Critics' Week (Cannes Film Festival) 15 – 26 May 2013 Grand Rail d'Or (Viewers' Choice Award) The Lunchbox Won [1]
International Indian Film Academy Awards 23 – 26 April 2014 Best Actress in a Leading Role Nimrat Kaur Nominated [61]
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nawazuddin Siddiqui Nominated
Best Story Ritesh Batra Nominated
London Film Festival 9 – 20 October 2013 Best Film Nominated [62]
Oslo Films from the South Festival 10 – 20 October 2013 Best Feature Film Nominated [63]
Producers Guild Film Awards 16 January 2014 Best Film Anurag Kashyap, Arun Rangachari, Guneet Monga Nominated [64]
Best Director Ritesh Batra Nominated
Best Debut Director Won
Best Story Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Irrfan Khan Nominated
Performer of the Year Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Nimrat Kaur Nominated
Best Female Debut Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nawazuddin Siddiqui Won
Reykjavík International Film Festival 26 September – 6 October 2013 Church of Iceland Award Ritesh Batra Won [66]
Screen Awards 14 January 2014 Best Film Anurag Kashyap, Arun Rangachari, Guneet Monga Nominated [67]
Most Promising Debut Director Ritesh Batra Won
Best Story Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Actor Irrfan Khan Nominated
Best Actress Nimrat Kaur Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui Nominated
Zee Cine Awards 8 February 2014 Best Debut Director Ritesh Batra Won [69]
Best Story Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Male Nawazuddin Siddiqui Nominated

See also[edit]

  • Bollywood films of 2013


  1. ^ Awards, festivals and organizations are in alphabetical order.
  2. ^ Date is linked to the article about the awards held that year, wherever possible.


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  2. ^ a b "The Lunchbox (2013)". UniFrance. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  3. ^ a b "The Lunchbox". Box Office India. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
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  5. ^ a b c d e "'Lunchbox' is a very personal film: Ritesh Batra". Zee News. 5 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Ritesh Batra's feature debut appeared in Cannes Critics' Week". Variety. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
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  11. ^ Helen Hu (27 January 2014). "Q&A: Ritesh Batra, director of "The Lunchbox"". The Eagle. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  12. ^ "The Lunchbox gets standing ovation at Cannes TNN". The Times of India. 22 May 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  13. ^ Saibal Chatterjee (21 May 2013). "Cannes 2013: A delicious Lunchbox and a Shootout gone awry". NDTV Movies. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Ritesh Batra's Lunchbox wins critics week viewers choice award at Cannes". DNA India. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  15. ^ "'Lunchbox' wins critics week viewers choice award at Cannes". The Economic Times. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  16. ^ "Cannes Film Review: 'The Lunchbox'". Variety. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
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  29. ^ The Lunchbox, retrieved 23 January 2023
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  32. ^ Gupta, Pratim D. (24 September 2013). "The Lunchbox". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. Archived from the original on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  33. ^ Adarsh, Taran (20 September 2013). "The Lunchbox". BollyHungama. Archived from the original on 20 August 2013.
  34. ^ Anshuman, Karan (20 September 2013). "Film Review: The Lunchbox". Mumbai Mirror.
  35. ^ Sen, Raja (20 September 2013). "Review: The Lunchbox is the best Indian film in years". rediff movies.
  36. ^ Mohammed, Khalid (20 September 2013). "'The Lunchbox' Review: Here's sumptuous food for thought". Deccan Chronicle. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013.
  37. ^ Grover, Aditya. "Movie Review: 'The Lunchbox' is delicious and delightful!". Youth Times. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  38. ^ Sharma, Suparna. "Cooked to perfection". The Asian Age.
  39. ^ Gupta, Trisha. "Unpacking The Lunchbox: Layers of language and time". Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  40. ^ Jones, J.R. (6 March 2014). "The Lunchbox". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  41. ^ Jha, Subhash K (3 September 2013). "Critics Want The Lunchbox For Oscars". rediff movies.
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  43. ^ "India nominates The Good Road for Oscars in Best Foreign Film Category". Bihar Prabha. 20 September 2013.
  44. ^ "Anurag Kashya Tweet". 20 September 2013.[dead link]
  45. ^ Kashyap, Anurag (26 September 2013). "The Community Of Independent Filmmakers In India Is Essentially Crabs In A Basket". Tehelka. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  46. ^ "Karan Johar Tweet". 20 September 2013. Really shocked and disappointed ....#LUNCHBOX had every factor working in its favour...we may have just lost our golden chance....SAD!!!
  47. ^ "Gunnet Monga Tweet #1". 20 September 2013. Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Sony was not enough for us the judge... I wish FFI success with their decision...!
  48. ^ "Guneet Monga Tweet #2". 20 September 2013. @ankash1009 how do they even nominate a film without an american distributor... !!!
  49. ^ cinebuzz (23 September 2013). "The Lunchbox Film review". Cinema News Today.
  50. ^ Sivakumar, Siddharth. "The Goutam Ghosh Interview". Tinpahar. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
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  52. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (16 December 2013). "Japan's 'Like Father Like Son' Wins Big at Asia-Pacific Film Festival Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  53. ^ "Winners announced at the 7th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
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  55. ^ "Awards - Film | Film Not in the English Language in 2015". BAFTA 2015.
  56. ^ Crane, Kelly Ann (13 December 2013). "Muhr Award winners celebrate as Dubai film festival nears its conclusion". The National (Abu Dhabi). Retrieved 4 April 2014.
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External links[edit]