By Arun Kumar, Washington, Feb 28 IANS | 6 months ago

Ritesh Batra, director of the critically acclaimed "The Lunchbox" would like Indian filmmakers to "reach out with our films to the world" as India has a wealth of stories to tell.


"We should not restrict our audience to India and Indians. Indian films should be for the world," says the director of what critics in his words have called "an Indian story with a universal heart."

"We have a wealth of stories," Batra told IANS in a phone interview ahead of the film's release in New York and Los Angeles Friday clarifying reported remarks that the audience for off-Bollywood or indie films from India is abroad.

On the controversy over "The Lunchbox" being snubbed in favour of Gujarati film "The Good Road" as India's official entry for the Academy Awards in Best Foreign Film Category, Batra said: "I think the process needs to be improved. It needs to be more in with the World's."

In Spain and Chile, for example, it's their academies that "make decisions that are good for the cinema of the country because it's the country that gets the Oscar not the filmmaker or the film."

Batra does not consider "The Lunchbox" an indie film as it is an India-US-France-Germany co-production.

"I think in India a film without songs is called an indie film," he quipped. "I don't know if there is a formula" for the success of a film like his. "But if there is, I would like to know it."

He agrees that the rise of multiplexes in India has been good for independent filmmakers.

"The Lunchbox was very successful, I think, because of that. It played in India for several weeks. So I think it's very good of course."

Batra who grew up in Mumbai, lives in New York City, and is married to a Mexican, believes that this "multiple existence" obviously "shapes my instinct in some way".

But I think for me to analyse myself is very difficult because everything comes from a personal place of instinct," he said. Maybe 15 to 20 years from now, one may be able to see how this affects a filmmaker's work.

Batra said he was open to doing commercial Bollywood/Hollywood cinema, if he could make it something personal.

"Sure. It's hard to anticipate. It depends on a story finds you as much as you find the story. If it's something I can take it and make my own, I'll do it."

"Both the characters in 'The Lunchbox' are me to some degree," he said. "I wrote it when I was away from India from the point of view of nostalgia. There is a lot of nostalgia in the characters from India."

Balancing his life as a new father and as a husband while his wife was expecting during the making of the film was "very difficult honestly with the travel and trying to write," Batra said. "It's really a daily day to day effort," but then "It's like everyone else.

Batra, who divides his time between Mumbai and New York does not consider himself either an Indian filmmaker or an American one.

"I consider myself a filmmaker," he said. "The stories just find you and it does not matter where they are set. If you can bring something to them then they are yours."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

(Posted on 28-02-2014)