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Dabba

by Kaori Shoji

The Japanese may feel like they have perfected bentō (lunchbox) culture, but India has a formidable lunchbox culture of its own, in the form of the dabba. Some 6 million of these meals are delivered each day to offices in Mumbai by dabbawallahs, and “Dabba” (released internationally as “The Lunchbox”) is a tale of what happens when one accidentally goes astray.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a Mumbai housewife whose indifferent husband fails to notice when her lovingly cooked meal doesn’t show up at his desk. The next day, she inserts a little note for the stranger who ate the misdirected meal — a cranky office worker nearing retirement (Irrfan Khan from “Life of Pi”) — and he replies. A lovely friendship develops between Ila and the stranger, though the pair have never laid eyes on each other.

“Dabba” is slow-paced and intricately crafted — it’s a movie to be savored rather than scarfed down. Along with the gorgeous food, it delivers a simple truth: When life humiliates you, the best way back to dignity is throuh the sincere performance of everyday tasks and rituals.