Photograph from Ritesh Batra is a captivating love story. Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra prove that love at first sight is possible in this romantic comedy from India.
I so very much wanted to start out the review of Ritesh Batra’s Photograph with a “Dear Amazon” lead-in because their release of this romantic comedy is the same weekend as Disney’s Aladdin. Their stories parallel one another exceptionally well.
That worked out a lot better than I thought it would.
Photograph follows the smartly told romance at the center of Ritesh Batra’s story. Miloni (Sanya Malhotra, Dangal), a young lady who, at the beginning of the film feels a bit lost and that’s because her parents are trying to mate her. Yet we know through her performance, that her heart lusts for something much, much deeper.
Batra’s Photograph layers in classism and elitism amid the modern Indian landscape based in Mumbai. Where Miloni comes from a life of privilege, Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lion) struggles to make ends meet as a street photographer. He has all the right instincts to capture the essence of a moment, yet he does not have the resources to capture a moment.
A chance encounter at the Gateway to India brings Rafi and Miloni together. It is symbolic that their chance encounter happens here; it is one of the top tourist attractions, a perfect spot for someone like Rafi to get constant work. Yet, it is symbolic of the future, something that the translations don’t need to convey.
It is at this point that Photograph reminds us that love doesn’t care about classism. It only requires two, willing participants.
And a caring “dadi” (Farrukh Jaffar). Dadi is Rafi’s grandmother. She is completely about finding the right mate Rafi, and Rafi is all about pleasing his Dadi, just as Miloni is about pleasing her parents. Farrukh Jaffar absolutely steals the show while Sanya Malhotra plays Miloni as a completely capable, modern woman.
Batra’s script is well intentioned, slowly bringing Miloni and Rafi together. The whimsy behind Amazon Studios’ Photograph is that the relationship between Rafi and Miloni is a fake as Miloni tiptoes around her parents, but their live-in maid knows better. The relationship between Miloni and their live-in runs the same lines as Rafi’s relationship between he and his Dadi.
Experience counts for a great deal, especially where custom and tradition reflect the rituals that a society treasures. Photograph also reminds us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just as our parents want what is best for us, we also have to look out for our own best interests. Batra’s use of the fake relationship really builds into something special.
This is also a part of Photograph‘s underlying problem. There are moments in the film that are so quiescent that the film stands still. Yet we are captivated by the hope and the whimsy that the cinematography conveys along with the longing that we know awaits us at the end of the film.
I suppose love doesn’t happen overnight. Like a well-composed photograph, Photograph takes its time to develop. The well-defined relationships are really what Photograph is all about.
Photograph is rated PG-13 and is now in theaters. All images courtesy of Amazon Studios.