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Director Ritesh Batra on 'The Sense of an Ending' and film censorship in India

by John Horn and Monica Bushman | The Frame

Indian film director Ritesh Batra attends the premiere of 'The Lunchbox' during the London Film Festival in central London, on October 19, 2013. ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images

Indian-born filmmaker Ritesh Batra won international acclaim for his debut feature film "The Lunchbox" in 2013.

After getting back to work writing and generating his own material, he was offered the opportunity to direct a film adaption of a novel he'd admired for some time— "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes.

The book— as well as the movie version— tells the story of a man named Tony Webster (played as an adult by Jim Broadbent) whose memory of his actions in the past may not square with the damage that he actually caused:

When Batra visited The Frame, he talked about the parallels between “The Lunchbox” and "The Sense of an Ending," and about film censorship in India.

Interview highlights:

On making films with somewhat ambiguous endings:

What is really exciting, and not just for me, but for many other filmmakers out there, is to try to find lines to walk on rather than commit to a certain notion or idea. Because you don't want to be telling a story about an ethical concept. You don't want to be telling a story about, you know, say a liberal versus a conservative. Life is more complicated than that. And this story [in "The Sense of an Ending"], and as did "The Lunchbox," offered me a really nice chance [to do that]. For example, for lovers of the book, there's a letter in the story that Tony forgets he wrote, and because the book is a first-person account, we take his word for it. You know, he says he forgot, and we are in Tony's shoes and he's talking to the reader, and we say Well yeah if he says he forgot, then he forgot. But in the movie, when this is in front of you and you have this flawed character of Tony Webster in front of you in flesh and blood, and you're telling the story through relationships, we really had to find that line between Did he forget or did he conveniently forget? Did he forget or is he lying? And to just have the story travel on the line was really interesting. But that's the exciting part. The exciting part is not trying to leave it open-ended, but the exciting part is trying to find this fine line we can walk on and take the audience along.

On film censorship in India and parts of "The Sense of an Ending" being edited out:

I don’t come at this issue in a sort of an angry or verbose way. I just think, when I see these things happening, I wonder How sad are the lives of the people who are sitting there and having to decide what to cut from a movie? But I think there's a journey to be had, you know. And of course activism is a part of it, being vocal is a part of it, but also being patient is a part of it. Because when I was growing up in India, it was just not too long ago, it was in the late 80s into the 90s, and we were a very closed society. We were the only democracy in the world that was on the other side of the Iron Curtain, we were closely allied to the U.S.S.R. And now in the last 10-15 years, the doors have opened and there's just been an immense change in society. And, you know, change takes time. And sometimes we also go backwards. But... it is troubling, but I think patience is also such a big part of wanting to move in a certain direction.

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.


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