The Lunchbox Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Directed by Ritesh Batra. Rated PG. Opens Friday.
The charming Indian dramedy The Lunchbox hinges on what sounds like the setup for a terrible rom-com: Two businessmen who subscribe to Mumbai’s renowned lunchbox-delivery system get their orders mixed up, and gruff widower Saajan (Irrfan Khan) starts getting homemade meals from frustrated housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur). They soon start corresponding via notes in Saajan’s lunchbox, developing an emotional connection and potential romance without ever meeting. It’s not hard to see the potential horrid American remake lurking under the surface, but writer-director Ritesh Batra mostly keeps things low-key, having Saajan and Ila spend more time talking about past regrets and future dreams than gushing about romance. The tone is more melancholy than cheesy, although some of the contrivances are a little hard to take. International star Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) gives Saajan a genuine world-weariness, and the movie is as convincing a story about aging and compromise as it is a romance.