- James Mottram
- 29 July 2019
Nawazuddin Siddiqui heads up this restrained romantic drama set in Mumbai, from Ritesh Batra
After two English-language efforts of varying quality – the bland Robert Redford / Jane Fonda vehicle Our Souls at Night and the more robust Julian Barnes adaptation The Sense of an Ending, writer-director Ritesh Batra returns to his native India for Photograph. Much like his debut, 2013's international breakout The Lunchbox, it's a sensitive drama that features Bollywood star Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Here, he plays Rafi, a middle-aged street photographer who makes a modest living snapping tourists in Mumbai.
Things change – well, a little, because this is a film of gradual movements – when bachelor Rafi takes a photo of Miloni (Sanya Malhotra). He uses the image to pretend that she's his fiancée when his grouchy grandma Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar) grumbles about his single status. But when granny approves of the good-looking Miloni, Rafi must find her and ask her to join his pretence.
A trainee accountant in her early twenties, Miloni is undergoing her own trials, as her family pushes her towards a traditional Indian marriage. It's this potentially screwball set-up that Batra toys with, in a quietly-hewn story that tends to simmer rather than crackle. Unfortunately, Malhotra is lumbered with too passive a role, and it's only when the estimable Jaffar appears that the film sparks into life.
As Rafi dreams of what might be with Miloni, he goes on a mission: to find her a bottle of Campa Cola, a one-time big brand in India that got overtaken by Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It's a winsome detail in a film full of them, while Batra handles the denouement with admirable restraint. And when it comes to the photograph that lends the film its title, the director is simply too canny to show us the obvious. His latest won't be to all tastes, but those seeking a restrained romance may be swayed by its gentle rhythms.
Selected release from Fri 2 Aug.