In an interview, he speaks about wanting to work with the stars, and his upcoming Hollywood movies.
Ritesh Batra earned his place in the cinpehile’s heart with The Lunchbox, which featured Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Even while he has been away from Hindi films ever since, the director has made two Hollywood films, in the interim — one, an adaptation of Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, and Souls at Night, featuring Hollywood legends, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. We caught up with the ace director, who spoke about his upcoming films and cinematic preferences.
How was it working on a Hollywood film for the first time?
Speaking about The Sense of an Ending, we adapted the novel of the same name by Julian Barnes. That was an experience in itself. Adapting a book for the big screen was something I was attempting for the first time. It was very refreshing.
Is it hard to convince Hollywood production houses to produce your films, especially when it isn’t a quintessential crossover film like a Bend it Like Beckham?
I really do not know the finances of it, but with The Sense of an Ending, it is a reel adaptation of the Man Booker Prize winner (2011) of the same name. I was approached to direct it, and it was an absolute honour and a challenge.
Despite The Lunchbox being an Indian film, there was an obvious Western tonality to it, something that had earlier been seen in Kiran Rao’s Dhobhi Ghat. Is it a conscious effort?
The Lunchbox was as local as it could be, to put it lucidly — the flavour, the tone and the theme were all local. But when I make a film, I try to ensure that it caters to international viewers, so that it reaches a wider audience. I believe films can have their local flavours intact and still be internationally comprehended.
Indian filmmakers like Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Passage) and Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Broken Horses) have earlier forayed into full-fledged Western filmmaking. Have you looked up to them for inspiration?
I have definitely looked up to senior filmmakers for inspiration and tutelage. Satyajit Ray and Woody Allen amongst many more are filmmakers who have inspired me to a great extent.
You have also been working on another Hollywood flick, Souls at Night, which stars A-list names as Rober Redford and Jane Fonda. How was that like?
It was very enriching. They are all legendary artists and directing them is a fulfilling experience.
Will we ever see a Ritesh Batra film that stars a Shah Rukh Khan or an Aamir Khan or a Hrithik Roshan or a Ranbir Kapoor?
Sure, why not? I’d love that. I think Ranbir Kapoor is an excellent actor. I’d love to work with him some day.
Which was the last Bollywood film that you watched and loved?
To be honest, I haven’t seen any recent Bollywood film. The last film that I watched was Piku, and I absolutely loved it.