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Filmmaker Ritesh Batra talks about his Hollywood journey

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Ritesh Batra has a tête-à-têtes with Nikita Wadhawan about return to Hindi cinema, working with Hollywood’s best and much more…

In 2013, filmmaker Ritesh Batra gave one of the most unique and memorable movies to the Indian cinema i.e. ‘The Lunchbox’. The movie made him an overnight star not only in India but in Hollywood as well. After four long years and working with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, Ritesh is coming up with his second film, titled, ‘Photograph’, which will be a star Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra in the lead along with Vijay Raaz, Jim Sarbh and many more acclaimed actors. Excerpts from the interview:

What should we expect from Photographer?


It is very interesting and eclectic cast and the story is set in Mumbai. It is about a photographer and his muse.

Now-a-days films are being completed in 40 days where as they used to go on for almost 3 months

I have completed all my film in almost 40 days. It is not an achievement of anything big, it is also a matter of resources. If I could keep shooting I would keep shooting.

Was it difficult to shoot with Nawaz and Sanya who have become very popular now?

Yes, it was very difficult to shoot in Mumbai on the street. But we managed somehow.

How special is Mumbai for you in your films?

A lot. I was born and brought up here in Bandra, I know the city very well or how it used to be. I have a nostalgia for this city. I love being here and working here.

How was it reuniting with Nawaz after ‘The Lunchbox’?

We are the same people essentially. Nawaz has become very successful which is very impressive. For me, it felt like the old days working with him again. We have a great short hand as we have worked together before. And everybody changes, I have had the pleasure to work with some wonderful actors and have learnt a lot.

You tend to choose a very unusual pair for your films. What goes on in your mind when you cast them together?

(Laughs) it sounds like what is wrong with me, but I don’t know. It is all about what the story demand is. Nawaz is a very established actor and has proven his talent in various films and so is Sanya, she is a great actor.

What will be unique about the chemistry between Sanya and Nawaz?

The characters in this film are very odd and both Sanya and Nawaz have got a great handle on them. It will be a something very new that we will see with both of them. 

 After working with Nawaz for the second time, will you be reuniting with Irrfan (Khan) or Nimrat (Kaur) anytime soon?

There are some ideas but nothing is on paper yet. The story should deserve their talent as well, like Nawaz was a great fix for this movie.

 How was your experience working with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in ‘Our Souls At Night’?

It was wonderful and one of my most memorable experiences. Robert and I have had a very close collaboration and before the shoot started all three of us had a few workshops which was the best time I had in this movie. I learnt a lot from them. Robert also put in a lot of faith in me with this project which I really appreciate. Now I am getting more time to spend with Robert as I am on the board of Sundance film festival.

The movie also received a lot of mixed responses, did you expect that?

How people react is not up to me, I can only try best to make the movie. I know that some people are going to like it and some people are not. But I really appreciate being able to do this work over and over again.

As you collaborated with Netflix for your last film, should we expect that you would be entering their web series space anytime soon?

I don’t know really. But I would love to do a web series when it makes sense for the story.

How different is it making a film in Hollywood versus making a Bollywood film?

Hollywood machinery is very vast and well-oiled machine which was a great experience but then I also enjoy working here even though it is a little bit chaotic. I have a very talented team in Mumbai and would love to work with them in any film in any part of the world.

How do you feel when you look back at your journey and see how far you have come?

It is very surreal and odd. These are not things that you plan. It is the kindness of strangers that had played a huge part in scheme of things

You are an avid reader as well so are you planning on making another film on any book anytime soon?

Yes, I am planning on it. I don’t have a specific genre in mind as I don’t like to limit myself to one thing. There things in the pipeline but nothing is on the paper yet.