Ritesh Batra's film to be Robert Redford's last one before retirement
After Hollywood actor Robert redford announces retirement, Mumbai filmmaker who directed 'Lunchbox' Ritesh Batra becomes last director to work with the legend....
Ritesh Batra with Robert Redford.PIC/Kerry Brown/Netflix
On Friday, Robert Redford, one of the most loved Hollywood actors of our time, announced that he was going to retire. While the news saw his fans slip into despondency, the one who was possibly most affected was Mumbai filmmaker, Ritesh Batra. “The burden on me suddenly went up,” he says over the phone from Colorado, where he has just wrapped up an eight-week schedule with Redford for Our Souls At Night.
According to the interview the Hollywood star gave last week, Ritesh Batra’s film, where he is cast alongside Jane Fonda, will be his last, besides a “lighter piece” called Old Man With A Gun. “I was just surprised,” says Batra over the phone from Colorado. “A film with Redford is special to start with. The fact that it would be one of his last, only made the experience all the more poignant.”
Batra, who considers Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969), The Sting (1973), and All The President’s Men (1974) his favourite Redford films, first met the actor-director back in 2008 — even before he had made a movie himself. His script was selected at the Sundance screenwriter’s lab, mentored by Redford.
A key characteristic of Redford, Batra recalls from his rigorous, one-schedule shoot is “his ability to get to the truth of a moment. Into several weeks of a tiring shoot, Redford, Jane (Fonda) and I would spend five hours at a stretch discussing how we could seek and derive deeper meaning from a scene. Most others would be happy to shoot, which is hard enough, and move on.”
It’s been over three years since Batra’s first film, The Lunchbox was widely feted globally, starting with a Rail d’Or prize at Cannes. From that iconic film, clearly, the cast seemed to have moved on to bigger, better things: Nawazuddin Siddiqui returned to Cannes this year with Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0; Irrfan walked in with Tom Hanks in Inferno a few weeks ago; Nimrat Kaur landed a part in the hit HBO series, Homeland. The person who quietly slipped out of the public gaze thereafter, ironically, was Batra, the debutant director. This, for a good reason, as one can tell, talking to the Bandra boy and Sydenham College grad, while he’s been through “a whirlwind of things”, directing Fonda and Redford — who made a hit pair in Barefoot In The Park (1967). The pairs gets together on screen “for the first time since Electric Horse in 1979.”
Robert Redford.Pics/Getty Images
The other Batra film to look forward to is the adaptation of Julian Barnes’s Booker-winning literary fiction, The Sense Of An Ending. Currently in post-production, it releases early next year. About what seemed like a ‘unfilmable’ book, Batra admits, “It is a difficult book to adapt, yes. Julian (Barnes) was hugely trusting, though. He asked me to go ahead, and betray him! I do believe films and books should be cousins of each other, not siblings.” The Sense Of An Ending stars Jim Broadbent (Gangs Of New York, Moulin Rouge) and Charlotte Rampling (The Verdict, Vanishing Point) in the lead roles. Given that, and Redford’s last hurrah, based on a Kent Haruf novel, releasing late next year, clearly puts Batra in the league of the rare Indian filmmakers to have genuinely crossed over to Hollywood — maybe since Shekhar Kapur and Mira Nair. What does he make of that? “I haven’t thought about that. I am only happy to tell stories that resonate with me,” says Batra, characteristically under-stated.
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