Indian director Ritesh Batra was on the receiving end of many plaudits after his 2013 crowd-pleaser The Lunchbox. He followed that success with a foray into English language cinema, releasing two films in 2017: The Sense of an Ending, starring Charlotte Rampling (who is incidentally the recipient of the 2019 Berlinale Golden Bear Lifetime Achievement Award); and Netflix movie Our Souls at Night, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The filmmaker has returned to Hindi cinema with Photograph, which has some superficial thematic similarities to The Lunchbox, although it’s perhaps not as engaging a feature as its predecessor. Even so, it’s an assured charmer and will receive appreciative attention beyond the festival circuit.
As many travellers will attest, there’s a prevalence of not entirely professional photographers who linger around tourist hotspots, offering to snap a photo of a visitor at the location in question in exchange for a small fee (or an exorbitant one, depending on the country). This is how Rafi, (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) earns his keep (although barely) in Mumbai, and it’s also how he first happens to encounter Miloni (Sanya Malhotra). The appearance of Rafi’s grandmother Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar) and her incessant urgings that her grandson finds a wife ASAP leads Rafi to recruit Miloni to masquerade as his bride-to-be. And yes, something similar did happen on The Simpsons when Marge pretended to be Apu’s wife.
Batra’s affectionate eye for Mumbai is obvious, and the richness of the city shines through. There is some gentle class commentary with the central couple’s disparate backgrounds, but gentle is very much the keyword with the entire film. This is not a piece of work that thrives on any significant conflict. There’s much to enjoy here, and the fact that the whole premise reeks of incredulity is breezily obscured by the sheer joy of this simple and rather enticing picture. After receiving its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Photograph was in fact acquired by Amazon, who have the resources to distribute and promote the feature on a substantial level, ensuring that the movie will be able to reach the crowd it’s sure to please.
Photograph does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch three clips from Photograph here: