The melancholic Miloni of Ritesh Batra’s new film Photograph is one character that talked a lot with minimal screen moments. Much like his earlier Mumbai based film, The Lunchbox, Batra again plays with the idea of connection between two people who didn’t know each other. Even though it is not as hard hitting as The Lunchbox was, there is a very subtle character detailing and a sense of anxiety in the narrative that makes it a slightly disturbing study of two similar characters from extremely different lifestyles.

Rafi is a photographer at Gate Way of India who clicks pictures of the tourists who come there. One day he happens to meet a girl named Miloni who is this studious girl who always topped the exams. The movie becomes interesting when Miloni decides to play along with Rafi when he creates a fake narrative to convince his grandmother, who is obsessed about getting him married, that he is seeing a girl. Photograph shows us the emotional connection between the two of them in that journey.

What is peculiar and odd about this film was the area of the romance Ritesh Batra tries to explore. If you aren’t a fan of gently paced offbeat movies, you might even feel that the movie ended without even beginning a relationship between the two. The comfort both of them share is also pretty endearing. Miloni has this curiosity and affection towards the people of rural villages that come to cities like Mumbai to do their job. The two people with whom she shares a comfortable emotional space are Rafi and her home maid. Batra isn’t trying to spoon-feed his audience. And there is no huge back-story justification to the seemingly crazy decision of Miloni to play along with Rafi’s idea to keep his grandmother happy. In the earlier minutes of the film, we hear someone saying that Miloni aspired to be an actress and maybe that’s the reason she decided to help Rafi.

Ritesh Batra’s biggest plus is his directorial brilliance. He has this great knack of not necessarily saying a story with a complete arc, yet makes us get into the head of the characters he designed. Both Rafi and Miloni are introverts. Rafi is someone who is adamant about clearing the family’s debts and that made him a loner. Miloni, on the other hand, is a scholar material who had to give up on her dreams because of the typical aspirations of her family. These are almost two equal characters trapped in extremely different scenarios. Rafi taking an effort to find the Cola that Miloni loved is such a filmy idea we have seen in romantic movies, but there is a texture of honesty and an understanding of the other person’s loneliness in that act which makes it a beautiful subplot in this extremely minimalistic storytelling pattern. Tim Gillis and Ben Kutchins are the cinematographers of the movie and the visuals are so much in sync with the tone and tempo of the screenplay. The background score shows up very minimally and discretely in the film and makes so much of impact.

One can say that Nawazuddin Siddiqui is in his comfort zone playing the character of Rafi. The actor internalizes the discomfort and slight hope the character possesses so sweetly. There is an inherent innocence in the way he gazes at people and that truly gives a reason for us to have empathy towards that character.  Sanya Malhotra as the largely silent and emotionally suppressed Miloni is too good. The fact that she manages to create a back story for her character even without much lines shows us how good she was in portraying that delicate character. Farrukh Jaffar as the old school grandmother and Geetanjali Kulkarni as the understanding maid were also memorable.

Photograph is a risky film as it is not dependent on a major conflict at its center. And that’s also the beauty or the catchy aspect of the movie. In multiple places in the film, Rafi is told by different people that he and Miloni as a pair was not possible/practical; largely because of the arranged marriage mentality of comparing looks, financial backdrop, caste, religion etc. And through the film Photograph, Ritesh Batra shows us how secondary all those things are in an actual relationship.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Final Thoughts

Photograph is a risky film as it is not dependent on a major conflict at its center. And that’s also the beauty or the catchy aspect of the movie.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.