It’s not common in Hindi cinema to come across a story told in undertones as reality is, but still conserving the tenderest of moments and feelings projecting them successfully without many dialogues, noise or even music. ‘Photograph’ is one such film.
If you come to think of it, then its a typical masala film plot- rich, urban and modern girl, poor rural boy and a relationship between them despite all the odds and differences. But director Ritesh Batra tells this story in a completely different manner, which is simple, lucid and at times lyrical.
Nawazuddin should be lauded for experimenting with different roles. But here, he is in his element, a simple, unimpressive photographer, on the verge of middle age who strikes a special bond with a simple, though rich Gujarati girl, years younger to him.
Though Sanya Malhotra has proved her mettle as an actor, but she still surprises in the role of a silent, submissive and studious kind of girl, who finds herself drawn to this photographer, because in the photo taken by him, she looks happier and prettier. The shots of her brooding, thinking or sitting lost at her study impress and move the audience.
There are small touching episodes which reflect this bond beautifully. The girl’s fascination for village life (because the protagonist Rafi’s grandmother is coming from a village in Uttar Pradesh) makes her ask her maid- what do you do in village, how do you spend your time?
And when she goes to meet the boy who can be her prospective husband, she very simply says, “I want to live in a village.”
The boy, completely surprised, asks her laughingly, “What will you do in a village?”
Again, she simply says, “I will do farming. And in the afternoons, I will sleep there only, under some tree..”
Then Rafi’s tenacious efforts to find Campa Cola and his ‘interaction’ with the man who used to live in the same chawl and had committed suicide are very tenderly portrayed. In them we can identify the shades of a parallel inner life that we all keep living (or want to live) besides the outer monotonous humdrum, the inner ‘sacrileges’ that we keep committing besides maintaining an outer life which is expected of us.
Farrukh Jafer as Daadi in the film is brilliant. It is as if she is the only flesh and blood character, binding these two protagonists delicately with the real world.
There are some shots and camera angles which will seem new to a commercial Hindi cinema goer. But these bring out the loneliness of the characters in a profound manner. Often the contours of Sanya Malhotra’s face are highlighted which bring out the tenderness of the brooding girl beautifully.
Photograph is open ended, just like a photograph can be depicted in any way the beholder likes. But the tenderness and sensitivity with which a story, an unnamed bond is portrayed keeps lingering long after the film is over.