Written for RAF News July 2019
Photograph sees an unlikely relationship develop between Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who takes photos of tourists by the Mumbai Gateway, and a fleeting subject (Sanya Malhotra) who he talks into posing for a quick snap before she floats away in a crowd, before even taking her polaroid.
Hearing that his grandmother has stopped taking her medication, despairing over the fact that he has not found a partner, Rafi sends the polaroid – which so delights her that she comes to visit, so that she may meet this fictional girlfriend.
Rafi finds solace in the fabricated relationship with the girl in the photograph – giving her a name and fantasising about her perfection. But this isn’t enough, he must find the girl and convince her to join in the charade and convince his hypercritical grandmother (Farrukh Jaffar). Her real name is Miloni, an accounting student with such promise that she is front and centre on billboards advertising the school that she attends. Their fate is marked on their first meeting, and the film will gently and gradually pull them together.
Miloni agrees to play pretend as recompense for having left him at the gates – this is a classic comedy set-up but it is used to bring out empathy and understanding. Through grandma’s insults and anecdotes, Rafi appears meek and sensitive, qualities that Miloni seems to admire or at least to which she can relate. Both introverted and with domineering parents, they share a tenderness.
Conflict comes in the shape of class difference, shown by their living situation, education and careers. At one point Miloni joins in eating some street food, which makes her ill. Grandma doesn’t understand, insisting that they are fine and that she’ll get used to it. Small observed details help to paint the picture, in their preferences of Cola and Kulfi for example, details which are not surprising coming from Ritesh Batra, the writer/director of The Lunchbox – a Mumbai love story communicated primary through food.
Photograph is almost a throwback to a classic love story, sentimental but grounded in small expressions and details.