The parallel cinema movement has been going on for several decades. A number of well-made films have been made as part of this movement, but most of them have gone unnoticed, being of a different level. In this, however, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox  There was an exception. And this film was appreciated everywhere. Ritesh Batra this week brings out his second film, Photograph, which depicts an unusual love story in Mumbai that takes birth slowly. So will the photograph be able to win over the audience, or does it fail in its endeavor? Let’s review.
Photograph is the story of two people from different strata of society who come together due to an unusual circumstance. Rafiq (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a photographer at Gateway of India, Mumbai. He lives with three people in a small room in the slum in which three more people also live with him. Based in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, Rafiq’s grandmother (Farooq Jafar) is old and is upset over Rafiq’s refusal to marry her. So she stops taking her medicine as a protest. To pacify his grandmother, Rafiq lies to her that he is in a relationship with a girl named Noori. Not only this, he also shows a picture of a girl named Noori to his grandmother. Actually, that picture is of the elite Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) of a Gujarati family. Rafiq had clicked this picture when Miloni was separated from her family at the Gate of India. Miloni is terrified of being separated from her family and leaves her picture with Rafiq without paying any money. That’s when Rafiq gets impressed by her innocence and beauty. On the other hand, Rafiq’s grandmother becomes very happy that her grandson has also liked a girl. And Dadi comes to Mumbai to meet Noori. Rafiq gets upset and convinces Miloni to meet his grandmother. Miloni agrees but what happens next will be known after watching the next film.
Ritesh Batra’s story is interesting and the Lunchbox Zone is taken. Ritesh Batra’s script is gripping at many places but gets shattered in many scenes. The element of stability is missing from the film. Ritesh Batra’s dialogues are simple and realistic.
Ritesh Batra’s direction is average. The direction ideally should have made up for the shaky screenplay. But it doesn’t happen. Some of the sequences don’t add much to the film and it gets magnified in the second half. Also there are some untold moments in the film which were not handled well.
The photograph begins on a somber note and it takes a while for the audience to get into the mood for the film and the characters. The film picks up its pace only after 20-30 minutes. Some of the scenes in the film are very spectacular like when Miloni meets Dadi for the first time etc. Although the second half feels a bit stretched. The photograph is 110 minutes long and by law should not have been longer than 90 minutes. The climax of the film is quite ambiguous and as a result it fails badly. The film ends abruptly which is beyond comprehension.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers a commendable performance as always. He suits the character of a soft spoken and good natured photographer. But Sanya Malhotra steals the entire limelight and delivers such a powerful performance that proves that she is one of the best actresses. She seems completely absorbed in her character. Farooq Jaffer is a favorite. Geetanjali Kulkarni is lovely and her scene with Sanya in the first half is a highlight. Sachin Khedekar (Miloni’s father) is improvised and most of his dialogues are in Gujarati with subtitles. Akash Sinha (Photographer Banke) and Sarvesh Kumar Shukla are fine and authentic. Jim Sarbh (Professor Anmol) has an interesting look. And does well in terms of performance.
Peter Raeburn’s music has a calming feel to the film. Cinematography by Ben Kutchin and Timothy Gillis is RAW and captures Mumbai very well. Neha Kamra’s hair and makeup and Niharika Bhasin’s costumes are spectacular, especially in the case of Sanya Malhotra. Shruti Gupte’s production design is also in sync with the spirit of the character. John F. Lyons’ editing is stretching too much. Also the intercutting in some scenes seems immature.
Overall, Photograph is a very different and obscure film which has very little chance of being successful at the box office due to its low buzz.