The man in a crushed shirt and a camera around his neck is Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He'd ask you, 'do you need a photo clicked'? You are most likely to turn him down. He will then set his eyes on you and say, 'That ray on your face? It will stay even as the sun sets. The breeze in your hair, the thousand chaos in your ears...it will all go'. The profoundness might be too much to resist. It was, for Sanya Malhotra. Ritesh Batra's Photograph is about that profound but undirected love.
Dare I say, a fluky, frivolous encounter between two strangers can actually be endearing? Like, between a man who survives by capturing moments around Mumbai’s tourist destinations and a woman, mellow like the last rays of sun, who leaves without paying and taking her photo. Ritesh Batra’s Photograph relies heavily on the concise comprehension between Nawazuddin Siddiqui - Rafiq and Sanya Malhotra - Miloni.
You’d like a diminutive Miloni for reasons more than one. An aspiring chartered accountant, she is surprisingly demure, sometimes to the extent of being compliant to her parents who are conclusive about everything, from the colour of her kurta to the man she should catch up with. She’s the kind in novels with a pastel presence and a kind of sobriety that just melts away. She, in fact, is many miles away from Rafiq’s rather economical life and the daily toiling. Yet, they are clamped by a similar melancholy.
There are, however, ripples in the silence. Nawaz, pestered by his grandmother who wants him hitched, decides to pass Miloni's photograph as Noori, his to-be wife. It was supposed to be a game of dodging and they decide to play along. As inevitably as they are drawn to each other, we saw that coming.
Batra picks his moments with care. In his vision, love is about Rafiq searching through the city for one bottle of Campa Cola, for the sake of Miloni's nostalgia. In his romantic intuitions, open confessions of love find no space. But how vocal is his love story?
Not loud enough, to be honest. Rafiq and Miloni might give you moments that linger on but nothing that moves you. Photograph, although pleasant, is inconsequential, leaving us at a road with many ends. It moves in comfort but is ultimately not prophetic.
While Nawaz plays his introverted and reserved self to perfection, Photograph barely challenges or explores the actor in him. Sanya, the youngest daughter in a protective family, she wears a constant gloom and a reluctance. But she doesn't light up, even when love is finally knocking down on her door. There are moments when we wish she broke free of her restrained self. She doesn't. Though, she tries really hard.
This Photograph doesn't speak volumes. It's a handful of moments that are worth preserving!