PHOTOGRAPH stars Sanya Malhotra (DANGAL) as Miloni and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (GANGS OF WASSEYPUR) as Rafi. They are two people on the opposite sides of the city world. One is a villager, one a Mumbaiker. One is poor and the other rich. When Rafi grandmother refuses to take her medicine in order for him to get married, he is determined to solve the problem. One day while working as a street photographer, he meets a social shy and personally isolated young woman called Miloni. He is warmed by her and then convinces Miloni to help him. She is to pose as his fiancee. After meeting his grandmother, they soon develop an unexpected bond that transforms both of them in ways they could not have imagined.
Ritesh Batra makes films about people. Sometimes often exposing the tenderness between lovers or exploring the themes he has taken to heart, themes of physical and cultural seperations. Batra (director of THE LUNCHBOX) returns to Mumbai for his fourth film and what we get with PHOTOGRAPH is a continued step forward in his direction. He does well in directing the senses of emotion, space, time and character. PHOTOGRAPH feels like Ozu or Naruse were rich influences. The actors add subtle emotional touches, physical gestures and tones of facial and physical gaits. The scripting allows for broad reaches here. Framing is tight and delays cuts to establish moments. Feeling in enforced by setting and this lovingly captures a Mumbai I know and love. Sometimes the film fails. It lacks cohesion in places. Time becomes disjointed and the relationships of the three central characters would have been better served by giving them more time. All in all it is a emotionally tender study of love but not between a couple, more familial.
Amazon Studios have got in on the act of Hindi films and rightfully so. India is a growing audience and the rise of the subscription industry has allowed for disruption and built into this. The problem faced by many Indian film makers (and studios like Amazon) is that often they are sold to an international audience in a particular way. It could be under either the omnipresent hold of Bollywood or they are in the school of Bengali (read Ray) cinema. This is a worldwide issue. In non American native film centers, Awards, Brands or key players are drivers for film success. However what Amazon are doing skillfully is appealling to a multitude of film fans to direct its influence and its viewership. I hope it launches a new wave of Indian film exploration by non natives and those NRI living under Bollywood dreams.