When you really think about it, the act of taking a photograph is decidedly intimate. Surprisingly so when you consider how many photos are taken worldwide and how many we must appear in on a daily basis, however inadvertently. There’s the relationship between the person in front of the lens and the one behind it. There’s the capturing of that particular moment in time, a moment that will never be exactly the same as the one that preceded or proceeded it.
A photo can catch us at our most vulnerable, our most honest and even at our most beautiful. Sometimes it will even reveal what we try hardest to hide. That’s true of Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) who has a chance meeting with street photographer Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) whilst on the streets of Mumbai. He takes a photo of her and prints it out for her, but she disappears before paying him. Later, after at least five acquaintances inform him that back in his village his elderly Grandmother is on a self-inflicted medical strike – refusing to take her medicine until Rafi, her only Grandson, gets married. Rafi prints out another copy of Miloni’s potrait to send to his Grandmother, although he doesn’t actually know Miloni’s name so refers to her as Noonie in the accompanying letter in which he informs his Grandmother is of his bride-to-be. The only problem is his Grandmother is now making the long journey over to visit them both, and he has no idea where to find this mysterious woman.
Whilst watching Photograph it is easy to see what a Hollywood remake of this film would be. It would certainly be re-branded as a romantic comedy, rather than a romantic drama. It would be louder, bolder and quicker. It would probably be brasher and littered with caricatures and cliches.
Writer-director Ritesh Batra’s film is not like that. Not in the slightest. Instead his film is quiet and careful, just like the two misfits at it’s centre. The bond between them develops slowly, unlike Rafi’s instant photography which brought them together in the first place. Just like within Batra’s previous work, there’s much elision within the storytelling. We are rarely given all the answers, we’re not all that sure when things are happening or how much time is passing between events. We don’t know everything about Rafi or Miloni; we just know what we need to know. We know that they are both lonely, unfulfilled and facing a future that is undermined to the point of overwhelming. Perhaps together, within each other, they can find some semblance of hope?
Gentle, charming yet affectingly elusive.
Photograph is in UK cinemas now.