A photograph is something that serves as a souvenir. In this fast-paced life, everyone is running for something, or away from something but they are all running. Amidst all this chaos, wouldn’t it be beautiful to get stopped by a street photographer with the below words?
“Saalon baad jab aap ye photo dekhengey na, toh aapko aapke chehre pe yahi dhoop dikhayi degi, aapke baalon mein ye hawa aur aapke kaano mein hazaaron logon ki awaazein. Sab chala jaaega, hamesha ke liye sab chala jaaega”
Translation: “Years from now, when you look at this photo, you will see the same sun on your face, this breeze in your hair and the voices of thousands of people in your ears or it’ll all be gone, gone forever”.
Being a poetic person, I would definitely be allured by such a statement and will stop if I ever come across such an amazing photographer like Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the movie Photograph. We all know that every photograph conveys something because every photograph has a story to tell – some stories bring a smile on our faces and some make us unhappy. Let us know the story of this one.
There are very few movies made in Bollywood which tell realistic stories in subtle undertones, and Photograph is one of them. Six years after the success of his debut movie The Lunchbox, director Ritesh Batra returned to Mumbai and helmed the movie Photograph beautifully with his keen and insightful observations, unlike other love stories. This could’ve been a typical movie just like other Bollywood movies but Ritesh Batra depicts the story of his movies in a completely different manner.
Let’s talk about the story of the movie:
Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), which means ‘exalted’, is a street photographer. In the modern era of smartphones, he carries a DSLR and an instant photo-printing machine along with him and strives to earn a living by clicking pictures of tourists.
While on the other hand, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), which means ‘achiever’, is an introvert who lives a sheltered life. She is a brilliant student who topped the Chartered Accountants Foundation and is prepping for her CA intermediate exams. Miloni loves to wear kurtis and t-shirts adorned in sublime colours, though she does not feel the need to hide her reserved nature through colourful outfits. Colour is as much a part of her persona as is silence. Her conservative Gujarati family forces marriage upon her irrespective of her consent, without care for her personal life or her actual desires and aspirations.
Photograph has the nuance to tell many different stories in just one story.
How beautiful is it when one instant photograph brings two completely dissimilar strangers together? Well, this happened when Miloni visits the Gateway of India and Rafi persuades her for a photograph. While clicking her picture he tells her to bring a ‘one paisa smile’ on her face. She then disappears in haste (called by her parents) without paying him after getting the clicked picture.
The story picks up the pace when Rafi’s grandmother emotionally blackmails him into getting married and stops taking her medicines on time. Rafi loves his grandmother and cannot afford to lose her. He then decides to fabricate a story by sending Miloni’s picture to his grandmother, addressing her as his fiancée. But he is not aware of her real name so he picks a name from a song Aaja Re, which is being played in the background, sung by Lata Mangeshkar from the movie Noorie – the name he gives Miloni.
Rafi’s grandmother then decides to visit the city from her village to see her future granddaughter-in-law. Rafi did not expect his grandmother to come and now the only way to hide his white lie is to make his grandmother meet Noorie/Miloni. Rafi somehow manages to find Miloni and convinces her to meet his grandmother just for once. Miloni agrees to meet his grandmother due to her being intrigued by Rafi’s photography because, in the picture taken by him, she looks happier and much prettier than in real life.
There are many beautifully crafted scenes in the movie that delve into Miloni’s desires and autonomy as a woman and the multiple ways in which she has to negotiate them:
- In the beginning, Miloni ends up buying a suit for herself that was her parents’ choice, while she wanted a different one – clearly depicting how she is suppressing her choices to fulfil her parents’ expectations. Later, she chooses her favourite colour when she shops with Rafi’s grandmother, where she is free to be herself.
- One night, a dinner table conversation revealed Miloni’s aspiration of wanting to become a stage actor but eventually gave up her dreams and pursued a career as a chartered accountant because of parental pressure. She accepted the reality and never complained about it. Now she pretends to be happy in front of everyone – in an ironical and bitter manner, she is a great actor.
- When Miloni goes to meet a marital prospect, she is asked where she wants to live. To which she simply replies that she wants to live in a village. The man bursts into laughter and asks what she would do in a village. She said she wanted to farm and in the afternoons – sleep under the shade of a tree. She wanted to leave the chaos that is her life and live a simple life.
Photograph has the nuance to tell many different stories in just one story. You will definitely feel helpless and a lump in your throat by seeing Rafi’s character and how he is laden with so many responsibilities. While on the other hand, Miloni is lost and also searching for something completely unknown even to herself, but she gets some level of contentment when she spends time with Rafi. When she looks at the picture clicked by him, she feels true to herself.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui should be applauded for experimenting with his roles and Sanya Malhotra also did a tremendous job in the role of an introvert girl. The movie ends where it was meant to be, the two of them walk out of the movie theatre and Miloni asks Rafi if he had seen the movie. To which he replies that he hadn’t, but he knew the story – that all the movies have the same story. In the end, you will definitely start believing in the presence of magic because this movie is magical.
Featured image used for representational purpose only. Image source: BookMyShow