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Movie Review: Photograph - 3/5

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The Times Of India
14th March, 2019 17:35 IST
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Why me? Because you saw me, when I was invisible

Photograph Story: Rafiq ( Nawazuddin Siddiqui ), a struggling street photographer at Mumbai’s Gateway of India, convinces a reclusive youngster Miloni ( Sanya Malhotra ) to pose for a picture. Their chance encounter leads to self-discovery and a fascinating tale of slow-burn romance.

Photograph Review : Though a complete stranger, for the well-being of his grandmother, Miloni pretends to be Rafiq’s fiancée. Societal, religious, academical differences aside, they slowly discover they have a lot in common, including their nature to bottle up emotions. Intimacy doesn’t have to be physical and relationships can lead to nowhere. They see each other in a world which has long overlooked their hopes, wishes and existence.

Nostalgia, introspection, childhood and simple joys … Photograph (not a selfie, pun intended), tries to embody these emotions and fairly succeeds, if not entirely.

In times of tackling smart phone and social media addiction, it takes a while to warm upto Ritesh Batra’s quiet, gentle, no-sparks world of an unlikely romance. His lead characters solely exchange subtle glances and co-exist in silence, forcing us to read their minds as words don’t come easy to them. Batra’s thought is gorgeous but the overtly restrained treatment doesn’t quite add up and justify its beauty.

What does stand out is the brilliance of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He is the master of his craft and conveys unsaid emotions effortlessly. Sanya underplays a bit too much but gradually holds her own in front of an actor like Nawaz.

The pacing is frustrating and needs a lot of patience but Batra’s unique take on love, with shades of Basu Chatterjee’s Chhoti Si Baat, has its share of heartwarming moments. Mumbai and its food (chai and khaari, pakodas on a rainy day), once again are integral to his storytelling.

However, here’s the catch. Instead of striving to give his narrative a direction, The Lunchbox director closely and unhurriedly observes his lead characters and lets them be. He doesn’t look for answers and hopes you do the same. Rafiq and especially Miloni’s aversion to conflict or confrontation isn’t defined so their peaceful submission to others’ whims and fancies makes you restless.

If you seek purpose or motivation behind someone’s certain behaviour, you won’t find it here so Photograph eventually struggles to keep you engaged. Unlike Lunchbox, which also revolved around longing, mundane life and companionship, this film lacks solid writing that can conjure up those emotions. Lack of reason makes it all seem inconsequential beyond a point.

However, if you appreciate ambiguity, the film leaves a lot to imagination and interpretation, which has its own charm. The open-ended climax in particular is cleverly done. It makes you ponder and crave for more.

Photograph isn’t a perfect shot and is lured by exquisite nothingness but it’s intriguing and takes you back in time. Like love and life, it’s uncertain and hopeful.

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