Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a struggling street photographer who works round the clock to pay off old debts. Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), is young, demure, educated and further up the so-called social ladder, though restricted by family expectations. There are approximately 18 million people in Mumbai. Ritesh Batra’s Photograph brings Rafi and Miloni together out of the infinite combinations possible, in an unlikely, slightly far-fetched but bittersweet romance.
Known for his incredibly successful debut The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra is back with this coming-of-age romantic drama starring the inimitable Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra, popular for her role in Dangal and Badhaai Ho.
The story begins when Rafi takes a picture of Miloni, but she happens to leave without collecting it. Due to his grandmother’s (played by Farrukh Jaffar) constant pestering to get married and in the hope that she wouldn’t try to form an alliance on his behalf, he sends her a photo of this random stranger (Miloni).
Rafi eventually tracks her down and requests her to act as his girlfriend, just long enough to appease his grandmother to throw her off the scent.
As often as not in situations like these, in the course of their play-acting, the two start to develop feelings for each other. But due to the differences in their upbringings, not to mention their social statuses, which is a huge deal for Miloni’s high-minded family, they know things are going to get complicated.
This is not your routine Bollywood romance. It’s an unpretentious tale, simplistically narrated. The emotion are real, the feelings between them are palpable; the love they have for each other is evident in the words as much in the silences.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra bring out the best of their characters in a somewhat limited script. Their chemistry speaks for itself. There’s much said but there’re more unsaid. Words aren’t needed, for moments like those, to fill up the silences. They know it and so does the audience.
Amidst the cacophony of a bustling city like Mumbai, the director manages to dig deep and narrate a story (a very unlikely one) between two very different people, which would seem very out of place in a real-life situation. But hey, both life and love work in mysterious ways. Batra uses the city, tellingly, capturing it in all its beauty and darkness.
One of the main shortcomings of the film is the script. Whilst the film is mostly good, it just wasn’t enough. The characterization seemed too vague for certain characters. The script was original enough, but seemed incomplete.
Special mention to Farrukh Jaffar for her brilliant portrayal of Rafi’s granny, with her effortless acting and fantastic comic timing.
Photograph is a hearty watch but could’ve been more.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
By Aditya Sarma
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