Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Jim Sarbh
Director: Ritesh Batra
“The wind that blew through your hair, the sound of thousands of people around you, everything will go away, but the light on your face will always remain in your photograph,” that’s how Rafi convinces Miloni to get herself clicked at Mumbai’s iconic Gateway of India at the start of the film. As dialogues go, this one is as corny and hard sell as anything you can expect to hear at the Gateway between one of its many opportunistic photographers and gullible tourists. But Ritesh Batra’s Photograph is about two distinct individuals from different worlds who cross paths at the Gateway and develop a bond.
Rafi, played by a roguish Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is a struggling street photographer from a small village in UP who earns a living by clicking pictures of tourists at the Gateway. Miloni, Sanya Malhotra looking like she just stepped off the boat, is a bright student and a shy Gujarati girl. Her character makes you wonder if there’s more to her than meets, well, the lens.
Their paths cross when Miloni visits Gateway of India with her family and Rafi clicks her picture but she leaves in a hurry without paying for the photograph. The story unfolds when Rafi sends Miloni’s picture to his grandmother who’s adamant about getting him hitched. With the intent of getting the old lady off his back, he tells grandma that Miloni is the love of his life. One lie leads to another. In Bollywood as in life. And Rafi finds his little fib has had monstrous consequences when the excited grandma lands up in Mumbai to see her future daughter-in-law from close. But enterprising Rafi tracks Miloni down. She’s a CA topper and her picture appears on a big hoarding and not the morning newspapers which he might have missed. He convinces her to meet the old lady as his fiancée with an ease that in this day and age is suspect.
But the film is utterly lovable for all its tiny flaws as well. Ritesh, who wrote, directed and co-produced Photograph, is in love with the City of Dreams and that you can see in every frame. Not unusually, there’s a lot about the film (especially the flavours of Mumbai) that will remind you of his debut film and worldwide hit The Lunchbox that also had Nawazuddin. What makes Photograph stand out is the director’s conviction and vision to let his hugely talented artistes be themselves. There are no talks of dreams or aspirations instead the film is a package of heartwarming moments between two complete strangers who have no expectations from each other whatsoever.
Oh yes, there are delightful performances by actors you don’t see in the trailer as well. Geetanjali Kulkarni who plays Miloni’s maid is perfect for the role. Vijay Raaz, who was outstanding in Gully Boy last month, has a guest appearance but it gets the audience to put their hands together again for this versatile actor. And there’s also Jim Sarbh playing Miloni’s teacher.
You cannot compare apples with oranges of course. But who’s going to stop people? Especially since Photograph, in the tried and tested manner of Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox six years earlier, made the same kind of splash at film festivals abroad? The Lunchbox, which had Irrfan and Nimrat Kaur co-starring with Nawazuddin, was packed with a strong storyline; Photograph has its own charm, Nawazuddin’s brilliance and Sanya Malhotra’s simplicity to hold you spellbound. The climax leaves a lot to the imagination, though.
PeepingMoon gives Photograph 3.5 Moons