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Ritesh Batra: I did Our Souls At Night primarily to work with Robert Redford, Jane Fonda

The director and actors spoke to the press after the premiere of their Netflix film in Venice Film Festival.

Robert Redford, Ritesh Batra and Jane Fonda

Sonal Pandya

Ritesh Batra’s second international project, Our Souls At Night, had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival ahead of its online release on 29 September. The film reunited co-stars Jane Fonda and Robert Redford who had last worked together on Sydney Pollack's The Electric Horseman (1979). Their first film was Arthur Penn’s The Chase (1966).

At a press conference afterwards, Redford, who is also a producer on the film, said he took on the project primarily because it was a film that would satisfy the older audience. He was looking for an opportunity to work with Fonda again and according to him, love stories always have a life.

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda at the Venice Film Festival

Redford spoke about the opportunities his Sundance film festival in Utah has opened up for independent filmmakers and helping them develop their skills for films.

Redford said about Batra, “Speaking about Ritesh, he came to our lab process many years ago. We premiered The Lunchbox, a film that he made in India. So that was when we got connected with Ritesh. When this film came about, it was a chance to maybe give an opportunity to him and he expressed an interest in it.”

Ritesh Batra at the
Venice Film Festival

Batra’s script for The Story of Ram prior to his debut film, The Lunchbox (2013) was selected for the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab and he also attended the Directing Lab.

“I’m a proud product of the Sundance Lab. I met him years ago at the lab, I don’t think he remembered me from then. When we connected again, I did this primarily for the honour and pleasure of working with Robert and Jane,” Batra added.

Redford and Fonda

Fonda joked that Batra cut short the sex scenes in Our Souls At Night, while Batra quipped that it was a hard decision to make. She called her character Addie 'the sparkplug' who encouraged the affair between the two.

Both Redford and Fonda said the film, adapted from Kent Haruf’s novel of the same name, was about hope. They shot the film in Eastern Colorado where the book is set.

The critics seemed to have given the films a thumbs up. The Guardian’s film critic Xan Brooks wrote, “Ritesh Batra’s film comes cynic-proofed. It won me over from the very first scene,” while Hollywood trade magazine Variety stated, “Batra’s evident affinity for the finer emotional fractures in ordinary lives remains a rare, sweet gift in a filmmaker”.

Even The Hollywood Reporter called Redford and Fonda as “charming, delicate and convincing as Addie Moore and Louis Waters” and praised Batra for directing them “without a drop of melodrama or sentimentality”.