Ritesh Batra’s intimate portrait of Mumbai and the loneliness it harbours, won over cinephiles all over the world. With The Lunchbox, the world opened up to the possibilities of Bollywood’s less-glamorous cousin which had an extremely indigenous quality to it. Centered around the near flawless dabbawala system, this love story would not be able to take place in any other city of the world.
And yet, people from all around the world were able to relate to the loneliness within the packed crowds of a metropolis. And it is our love for the movie, which made us imagine the different possibilities of the ambiguous climax. Ila announces her intention to move to Bhutan, while Saajan abandons his plans for Nasik and tracks her down. Does he get there in time? Do they live happily ever after? What happens? We tried imagining the following 8 instances.
1. Saajan and Ila get their happy ending, the one we all hoped for
This is the ending most people were hoping for. As Saajan accompanies the dabbawalas to find Ila’s house, he finds her just in time and is able to convince her to not go to Bhutan. Both Ila and Saajan profess their love for each other, and they move in together as a family. Ila makes lip-smacking food, while Saajan complains about the chilli being on the higher side. And just like that they live happily ever after.
2. Saajan meets Ila’s husband
After Saajan decides he isn’t the right person for Ila, he takes it upon himself to fix her marriage. With the help of the dabbawala who picks up the aloo gobi from Saajan’s caterer, he tracks down Ila’s husband. He speaks to him at length about how Ila is a woman of the highest order and how if she walked out of his life, he would never find someone like her ever again. He tells her about his own loneliness of when he’s smoking on his balcony, and he sees his neighbours share a meal like a family. He warns him, that he might become another Saajan and he should do everything within his power to salvage his marriage with Ila. The husband listens to Saajan, and manages to convince Ila to not walk out on him.
3. An ending that leads to new beginnings
Saajan isn’t able to find her in time, she leaves for Bhutan without ever knowing he tried looking for her. She starts afresh with her daughter, who gets enrolled in a school while Ila finds a job to support themselves. Saajan gives up on his dilapidated Bandra home, and moves to Nasik for good. After his conversations with Ila, he has found a new vigour for life even though the realisation has stuck that his twilight years are upon him. He becomes a tutor for many kids in the locality, as he helps them with everything between Maths and Accountancy.
4. A tale of two cities
Having found his new zest for life, Saajan doesn’t give up after he can’t find Ila at her residential address according to the dabbawala. He rushes home, packs a bag and takes off to Thimphu. Meanwhile, Ila is so drawn towards Saajan, that she reroutes her cab from the airport to a nearby train station. She inquires about the first train to Nasik, and starts looking for him over there. Saajan settles down in Bhutan while Ila settles down in Nasik, completely unaware of the other person’s whereabouts.
5. An untimely goodbye
Ila gazes at her suitcases and her kid from a distance. What was she running from? And how futile was it? Did she actually think she could run away from the disappointment in her life? She puts down her bag, holds her daughter’s hand and walks up the stairs. Meanwhile Saajan has accompanied the dabbawala who picks up the tiffin from Ila’s house, and as they enter the building they sea a crowd gathered. As Saajan pierces his way through it, he sees Ila and her daughter lying in a pool of blood. Some people are running around nervously calling the ambulance, while Saajan withdraws from the pandemonium. It’s a lost cause.
6. Ila’s chooses herself
As Saajan makes his way to Ila’s apartment, he sees her dragging her suitcase to the living room. Unable to recognise him at first, Ila realises it is Saajan when she sees the dabbawala alongside him. She tells the dabbawala to leave, and takes the moment in. Her initial reaction is to forgive him, but that quickly becomes a foregone conclusion. She confronts him about how he could leave her alone in anticipation, as he looked on from a distance. Ila thanks Saajan for giving her the strength to find a new meaning of her life outside the claustrophobic marriage. And she leaves for the airport.
7. The last letter
Saajan wasn’t able to stop Ila. After he comes to know from Sheikh, that Ila visited the office to look for him, the office becomes his one last hope. He hopes against hope, that she will try to write to him. So much so that he finds one excuse or another to visit Sheikh in office, and inquire about a letter in his name. He does that for a whole six years, until one day he finally hears from her. She writes about her job, and how her daughter is finally making her way to high school. He can’t keep the joy to himself, as he quietly walks out of the office without saying anything to anyone. He never comes back.
8. The pursuit of love
It’s been a decade since Ila and her daughter moved to Bhutan. The daughter comes back to Mumbai for college, when she becomes hell-bent on tracking down Saajan Fernandes. She’s been intrigued by this figure in her life who she remembers more clearly than her actual father, thanks to her mother’s stories. Vaguely remembering his office, she goes about inquiring person-to-person basis, and finds about his Nasik address. When she reaches Nasik, she finds Saajan’s adopted family. They tell her that he had fallen ill. He told them about Ila and decided he didn’t want to live the rest of his life, wondering what if. Then one fine day, he packed his bags and decided to go looking for her in Bhutan. And just like that he was gone. They hadn’t heard from him since.
Ritesh Batra might have made a name for himself in the west after A Sense of an Ending, but the world and especially the Mumbaikars will always be thankful to the filmmaker for showcasing the city so beautifully.