10 Directors to Watch: Ritesh Batra Follows Hindi ‘Lunchbox’ With Two English-Language Films

After earning acclaim at Cannes with 'The Lunchbox,' the Indian director went on make 'The Sense of an Ending' and 'Our Souls at Night.'

ritesh batra the sense of an
batra: Victoria Will/Invision/AP

For Mumbai-born director Batra, directing an English-language film, let alone two, wasn’t necessarily a goal. But after the success of his Hindi-lingo debut, “The Lunchbox,” which premiered in Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, offers started to pour in. So when BBC Films invited Batra to direct “The Sense of an Ending,” he says, “I jumped on it.”

A subtle romantic mystery that stars Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling as long-estranged lovers with unfinished business between them, the drama is based on a Julian Barnes’ novel. “I’m an avid reader,” Batra says. “I was interested in doing justice to the adaptation [which turned out to be] a bigger challenge than I expected.”

He had a “humongous” crew of nearly 300 people on set, which took some getting used to in the first week. But Batra found the pleasure of collaborating with respected British actors to be no different from his experience directing Irrfan Khan on “The Lunchbox.” “Charlotte is really a dream to work with. She’s always searching for the truth,” he says.

As he was finished up “The Sense of an Ending,” which will open the Palm Springs film festival before releasing Stateside in March, Batra got an offer to direct another English-language film, “Our Souls at Night.” Based on Kent Haruf’s novel about a pair of widowed neighbors who share a connection, the film stars Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The material struck a chord for Batra, who explains, “When I was growing up, I shared room with my granddad. I got to see his last days of life, young and old were in that room.”

The “Our Souls at Night” shoot just wrapped in Colorado, and though he still has to oversee post-production in New York, Batra next hopes to write and direct a script of his own. After making movies on three different continents, he knew it was time to settle down a bit after his 4-year-old daughter said to him, “Let’s go home.” he says.

Age: 37
Influences: Louis Malle, Satyajit Ray, Robert Redford
Agents: Sophie Dolan and Jodi Shields at Casarotto Ramsay & Associates (U.K.), Jerome Duboz and Roger Green at WME (U.S.)
Lawyer: André Des Rochers at Gray Krauss Stratford