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Dabba ("The Lunchbox")

Writer/Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Irrfan Khan

A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an old man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox. Gradually, this fantasy threatens to overwhelm their reality.

Mumbai, a city of miracles.

One of Mumbai's miracles is Mumbai's Dabbawallahs - a community of 5000 dabba (lunchbox) deliverymen. It is a hereditary profession. Every morning the Dabbawallahs deliver hot meals from the kitchens of housewives to the offices of their husbands, and then return the empty lunchboxes back to the homes in the afternoon. For 120 years they have provided Mumbaikars with a taste of home in the office. They navigate through the overcrowded local trains and chaotic streets - that often have a namesake or more than one name. The Dabbahwallahs are illiterate, and instead rely on a complex coding system of colors and symbols to deliver dabbas in the labyrinth that is Mumbai. Harvard University analyzed their delivery system, concluding that just 1 in 8 million lunchboxes is ever delivered to the wrong address. Dabba is the story of that one lunchbox.

A mistakenly delivered lunchbox connects a housewife, Ila Singh, to Saajan Thomas, a lonely man in the dusk of his life. Ila lives in Dadar, the conservative middle class Hindu enclave. And Saajan lives in Ranwar village, Bandra, an old Christian neighborhood that is threatened by the new high rises in Mumbai. Very soon Saajan will retire and bid goodbye to a Mumbai that has crushed his dreams, took away his loved ones one by one, and turned his hair white. Just then Ila comes into his life. In the big city, that crushes dreams and recycles them every day, both find a dream to hold on to. Ila begins a fantastical affair with a mystery suitor, pouring her heart into cooking meals for him. And Saajan looks forward to lunch box deliveries from a mystery woman every day. They exchange notes via the lunchbox and create a fantasy life. As the lunchbox goes back and forth, this fantasy becomes so elaborate that it threatens to overwhelm their reality. The characters of The Lunchbox exist on the line between the Mumbai of reality and the Mumbai of fantasy.

The Lunchbox is the story of the life we dream of versus the life we live in, and of the courage it takes to turn out fantasies into reality.

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