Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR
‘Lunchbox’ came a while ago, yet it’s still remembered as one of the most heartwarming films. Ritesh Batra is actually known as the ‘Lunchbox’ director ever since, and now with ‘Photograph’ hitting the marquee, there’s more to his acclaim. We catch up with him to talk about his latest movie, reflecting human emotions in his stories and more…
I felt ‘Photograph’ reflected so much simplicity right from the trailer itself. Was that conscious?
The simplicity of the film really depends on its characters and what happens between them. I had a lot of fun writing it. A poor guy and a somewhat rich girl – in real life, they wouldn’t spend any time together. I was really interested in making this story and make it believable. That’s what drived me to make it. For me, it was just about making the scenes believable and portray the longing that these people have, and what do they want from each other.
How has the film evolved from writing to directing it – since you’ve done both?
We’ve been really lucky to find Sanya and Nawaz to play these parts and once you get the cast right, things change accordingly. Geetanjali Kulkarni is in a wonderful role, Vijay Raaz is in a special part. We have Jim Sarbh as well, a wonderful actor called Akash Sinha. So, all these people came in and made the film better. I always kind of do the re-writing with the actors in mind. Based on rehearsals, things get better as well.
In terms of the depth of these characters, what did you want the audience to take them?
That’s up to them, but the only thing a movie can do, it be a mirror – when someone sees themselves or someone else in it. If you’re trying to constantly give a message to people, you’re already making a bad movie. I think what I’m always trying to do is, make people take the movie home. I saw the ending of the movie, and I thought it’s a good ending for people to take the movie home with them.
The film is very rooted, and somehow seems to have a global appeal. How have you striked that balance and find relatability all through?
I work to keep my film very true to where it is from, and on its details. If the characters are believable and the films shows what’s inside them, the film becomes relatable. People are the same from within, no matter where they’re from. It’s better to focus on what inside people. You never know what works, but the best you can try is to be true in portraying what’s inside the characters because the emotions remain the same no matter where people are from.
You mentioned to me earlier that you started the production house because you didn’t want to limit yourself – be it in terms of creativity or deadline. How have things turned out in that sense and how’s liberating has it been?
For me it’s been a big learning. And what I’m interested in, is enabling my own work and also if I see something I love and help enabling making that film. I don’t believe in creating a machinery. It has to be fair. So, it’s been also liberating in the sense of choosing the right partners to work with, because you can’t do it alone. That has been great and I think I’ve developed some long-term enduring relationships and partnerships. So, it’s been a very nice experience.
What has been your influence when it comes to cinema, or even from your own experiences which makes you come with films like ‘Lunchbox’ or ‘Photograph’ which deal with human emotions largely?
That’s for everyone else to see. If I spend too much time thinking about myself, it would be boring so I go on to the next. What I find interesting is longing inside people and I love to portray that – what is it that they want. There’s a way to shoot that. To shoot loneliness is nothing – you can’t just shoot a person sitting somewhere alone. But longing is very interesting to shoot. So, I like to portray that in my films.
From here on, how do you see yourself as a company in terms of the kind of content you want to make?
We want to export Indian stories. We want to make Indian stories for the global market, we are really specific about that. And of course, we want to work in India, that’s important. There’s a vast diverse audience in India, who wants different things to watch. It’s an interesting time and it’s great to make movies in the time of change. In the last five years, everything has changed with also Amazon Prime, Netflix and other mediums.