Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Writer/director Ritesh Batra's Photograph offers audiences a low-key romance between a tourist photographer (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) struggling to scrape money together to pay off family debts and the daughter (Sanya Malhotra) of a well-to-do family unhappy with both the current state of her life and her parents' plans for her future. Neither is all that happy with their lives, but until their meeting neither of them has ever thought about attempting to make a change, either.

A chance encounter between the two leaves Rafi (Siddiqui) with Miloni's (Malhotra) photograph, taken at the Gateway Of India. Hoping to ease the worry of his grandmother (Farrukh Jaffar), Rafi includes the stranger's photograph in a letter suggesting that he has finally found love. When the grandmother decides to come into town to meet her, Rafi scrambles to find the stranger and convince her to play along for a few days. What could just as easily have been a throwaway plot to a regrettable Hollyood romcom works fairly well here, as the unusual offer comes at just the right time as Miloni feels oppressed by the expectations of by her own family.

Although we don't see Rafi's attempt to convince Miloni, we do see her acceptance of the offer along with a sense of freedom she finds by playing someone other than herself. Instead of focusing on romantic chemistry between the pair, Batra's script focuses on slowly revealing the commonalities which Rafi and Meloni share to each other and the audience. Far from a romantic love affair, Photograph proves to be more about understanding, acceptance, and discovering love in the most unexpected of ways. Not all of the film works, for example there's a subplot involving Miloni's creepy teacher that is never properly developed, but keeps popping up only to die slowly on the vine. Nor does the film ever completely convince us that the pair can find long-term happiness together. That said, even if the ending isn't quite as satisfying as I'd like (a deliberate choice by the director), Photograph provides a diverting look at love through the eyes of a pair of talented actors against the colorful backdrop of Mumbai.

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