Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra
When you know that the film is already doing the rounds of the film festivals, you have a brief idea as to what you can expect from it. No commercial potboiler to begin with… Photograph is certainly one of the better films one sees, but is it as wholesome as The Lunchbox?
Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) captures moments, masses and Mumbai every day. He is one of the many faceless photographers one sees around the Gateway of India, in Mumbai. A hard working, honest man who is doing everything he can to pay off some loans. His favourite person is his grandmother. The feisty lady has big dreams for her grandson, and is in a hurry to see them come true. The biggest and the most vital one is to get him married off.
In a moment of despair, Rafi sends off a picture of a girl (Sanya Malhotra) to his grandma. He calls her ‘Noori’ and claims her for his fiancé. He doesn’t realise that his old grandmother would be packing up and coming straight to Mumbai to meet Noori herself.
The only thing that Rafi can do now is to find the girl from the photograph. He traces her to a middle class, Gujarati family. Her name is not Noori, but Miloni. She is a very bright student and lives a very sheltered life. With nothing yet everything to lose, Rafi decides to share his dilemma with Miloni, who rather surprisingly agrees to play along as Noori.
What begins as an odd understanding between an uneducated man and a rather cerebral girl, is sweet and poignant in parts. You cannot call it a love story though there is love. The beauty of this film lies in the antithesis of the city it is pegged in. The rushed, bustling city of Mumbai where some relationships are a silent assertion of sanity, Photograph is that quiet stillness.
With Nawazuddin Siddiqui one tends to take it for granted that there will be excellence delivered. Rafi, though not dramatically different in terms of mannerisms and diction, is someone who has a niceness about him. Despite the deception that he has planned, you know here’s a man who is inherently honest. How Nawaz convinces the audience of the unspoken dichotomy, is what makes the man a legend in his craft.
But what was amazing is to see Sanya hold her own. She did it in a miniscule way in Dangal opposite Aamir Khan, she did it subsequently in each of her films be it Pataakha or Badhaai Ho! She has definitely left her good friend Fatima Sana Sheikh far behind at this moment. Despite not doing the A-lister films, Sanya is making a mark for herself every Friday she comes on.
Of course, while the actors of the film (one has to specially mention of Farrukh Jaffar who plays granny, not only because she gets the ball rolling; she is a dynamite onscreen) are seamlessly woven into their characters and storyline of the script, the film's more striking element is its cinematography, background score and direction.
Tim Gillis and Ben Kutchins are the real photographers of the film, these two cinematographers have framed each and every frame of the film with grit and glamour in equal parts be it the bright green ceiling fan in the stifling apartment that Rafi calls home or the bright red BEST bus on the streets of chaos. The screaming pops of colour in the quietness of this film remain with you, even while you might not register it initially.
Like its cinematography, there are many sweet instances in the film which director Ritesh Batra has beautifully managed by getting old Hindi film songs engaged to the script of the film. The dialogues are also laden with heart yet the insistence of keeping the pace slow and quiet gets the audience a wee bit restless. There is so much in the film praiseworthy and yet, it is not an unforgettable experience.