Love and One ‘Photograph’ ☆☆☆☆☆

There are some mothers with whom one should never shop. Living at home, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) doesn’t even get a choice of the colors she wears. Her mother prefers pink. The daughter prefers a vibrant yellow. You have to wonder what she is allowed to do by herself.

Although she is shopping together with her mother, she wanders off to the Gate of India.

At the Gate of India, a middle-aged a street photographer, Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is telling people, “Years from now when you look at this photo, you’ll feel the sun on your face.” From the beginning, we know Rafi lives in a shack with four other men. They sleep on the floor with a ceiling fan circulating the air. Rafi sends his earnings home to his small town, but he’s surrounded by people who know him and his family.

His grandmother Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar), who raised him after the death of his parents, has stopped taking her medication because Rafi wasn’t married. We later learn that his two sisters were already married, Rafi paid for their weddings and the great feasts that went with them. He now works to pay off a great family debt and to buy back the family home, but street photography doesn’t pay well.

While Miloni is away from her mother, she bumps into Rafi and agrees to have her photo taken. Rafi has a printer and after printing it, he searches for an envelope, but Miloni hears her mother calling and she leaves Rafi, forgetting to pay him. Rafi seems more resigned than angry, but the unpaid debt lingers on his mind. He prints another copy and encloses it in a letter to his grandmother, assuring her that he has a lovely fiancée named Noorie, a song from a popular movie.

Of course, you already know where this is heading. The grandmother will travel to the city, Mumbai, wanting to meet the fiancée.  Rafi will ask Miloni to play along. They will fall in love, but this is a wistful story, a chaste meandering toward affection. Rafi is the realist; he knows she is better educated. Miloni dreams of village life as a pastoral bliss away from the pressures of her family and the domineering influence of her mother. Her parents dream of matching her with a friend’s son who will be going abroad to the US for an MBA. Miloni is sensibly studying for a CA Intel, which seems to be contracts and accounting. She’s a star student which is how Rafi tracks her down but she had once been interested in acting, winning my awards until her mother decided she needed to focus on more practical things.

As with “The Lunchbox,” the ending is left to our imaginations.

“Photograph” made its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2019 and was part of the Indian Film Festival LA (13 April 2019). “Photograph” opens at the Laemmle Royal on 17 May 2019, and 24 May 2019 at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 and the Town Center 5. In Hindi, Gujarati and English with English subtitles.

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